Ah, the middle of summer. Maybe you, like countless other families, have eased into a gloriously relaxed summer schedule. Late-night firepits, pajama day number two in a row, or three, or four…. However, have you looked around and had the dreaded thought, “How are we going to get into our routine when we head back to school next month?”
All of us, but especially kids, thrive on routine! Many times “behavioral” issues (ie: tantrums, fights, etc…) happen because summer throws us out of our normal schedules. As fun as these relaxed days of different environments, and lack of structure can be, they can also lead to meltdowns, even in our older kids. Structure doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule, but if we have a routine, we can all handle the days better. (This isn’t just for your kids, it’s for the whole family!) Below are five things my family does to avoid the uphill battle of getting back into the school routine.
Five Summer Tips for a Better Back to School
Consistent Wake-up Times:
When you and your kids get into laid-back, slow mornings with no structure, the harsh jolt of 7 am wakeups in September is that much harder! To avoid that set your alarms, and aim to consistently get up at the same time each morning – it can be a little later than the school year, but not by too much.
Our son is an early riser. During the school year, our rule is that he has to be dressed by 7 am. We’ve found this curtails the chaotic yelling of, “We have to leave in 10 minutes! You’re not dressed?!” During the summer we’ve decided to keep this time the same. My mother’s rule growing up was everyone had to be awake and dressed by 10 am. As a teenager, I stayed with my grandmother during the summers, and I had to be up, dressed, and bed made by 11 am when she came home on her lunch break. Whatever time you choose, keep it consistent – this makes easing back into the school year SO much smoother.
Tip for working parents: if you have older kids with phones, you can call or Facetime them at a certain hour to confirm they’re awake and dressed.
This one doesn’t sound important, but it is! Make sure you’ve all eaten by a set time. Even if you don’t have anything planned that day, or no camp to go to, you should still have both your kids and yourself up and fed, so there’s that consistent structure. Hot tip: since there are plenty of ice cream, popsicles, chips, and s’mores throughout our summer days – start the day off with some fruit and protein to balance out that sugar crash later. A hungry kid is a cranky kid, and will also snack you out of house and home!
Screen Time Rules and a Reading Routine:
Get ready for me to be the ‘bad guy’. One of the major back-to-school struggles can be the dreaded “summer slide”. Have everyone (You too!) read for at least 15-30 minutes a day.This tip is for young kids and older kids alike! I won’t go into too much on screen time, because everyone handles it differently, but I will stress that limits are important!
A good incentive if you’re struggling with preteens and teens who don’t want to get up and dressed or to lift a finger and help out around the house: change the wifi password, and only release it at a designated hour (Let’s say 10 am). They have to be up and dressed by that time. (Throw in a chore that has to be done as well for extra productivity!)
This is another routine that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that completely sets the tone for the end of the evening. Try to have a plan so you and your family know what’s coming. Try not to just “wing it.” The only times my family has fights about dinner are the nights we say “Oh, we’ll figure it out” – then nighttime rolls around and everyone’s too hungry to think about what they’d like. No one wants to end an enjoyable summer day with a “hangry” family fight!
You can’t have a good start to the day if you don’t have a good end to it, so this last one may be most important – keep the bedtime routine consistent! Going to bed at a reasonable hour is so important for everyone! For our 7-year-old son we still aim for his normal school bedtime of 8 pm – yes, we definitely will have a late night or 2 sprinkled in there. (I mean, drive-in movies don’t start until 8:45!) But for the most part, it’s still 8. A lot of times those busy summer days can leave our kids even more exhausted than their school day counterparts – sleep is SO important!
Hopefully, some of these tips will help your family start reining in your routines now for a better back to school. Let pajama day and late-night fire pits be a rare fun thing, not an everyday thing. When it’s an everyday thing it’s so much harder to get back into the ‘school year’ routine. Summertime can be relaxed, but simple routines help your days go smoothly and set you up for success as we all head back to school!