It’s that time of year again! Time for school to start and the fun (and sometimes chaos) of summer to end. There are parts of us which want to continue with the summer routine of waking up when we want or being woke up by the kids, and the other part of us knows that just cannot fly when school starts.
Summer often means a different schedule or sometimes even no schedule at all. So as parents, how do we start a transition back to a schedule that works for our kids? What does a timeline look like for transitioning the schedule back to something resembling order?
The timeline of getting back to a school schedule is flexible. People can start as early two weeks before or as late as a weekend before. You could even start as late as the night before like my mother did, although many kids will need some transition time to ease the change to the rigid schedule of school.
You want to start out by getting yourself as the parent on a school schedule. Kids are very observant and will often follow what you do – “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. This doesn’t mean you have to go to bed at the same time as your kids, but shifting everyone’s schedule to earlier is important. This means getting to bed early and getting up early. Figure out a time which works for you, but getting at least 8 hours of sleep is vital, especially for kids.
It may feel awkward to have your kids going to bed when the sun is still shining, it is only awkward because you aren’t used to it. Push yourself and you will enjoy some time where children are asleep and you can feel like a normal person.
You might be thinking, “Thank you, Mr. Therapist Man, but my kids won’t just fall in line to go to bed 2-4 hours earlier.” You don’t have to look at this like warfare. Gradually push your kid’s bedtime back 20 minutes each night. Set an alarm on your phone each night and gradually push the time earlier each day until you get what you want. This also means moving meal time earlier too.
Do not worry if you procrastinate transitioning a school schedule until the night before, it is still possible. However, it is much easier when kids are already on a routine.
The timeline begins with just starting to get back on track.
2 Weeks Before School
You may want to start getting supplies now. with your kids. This helps them get it in their minds school is coming. Also, shortening time kids are watching television and playing video games. Gradually bring bedtime earlier and wake your kids up earlier as well. Also, start getting the children to do their chores they usually do during the year if they have gotten away from them.
1 Week Before School
The bedtime should be firmly set and you should start sounding like a broken record, “School’s going to be here before you know…we gotta get back into the swing of things.” Wake time should be about an hour and a half before school starts, in order to give you flexibility in case any craziness happens in the morning, which it will. If your kids are really pushing back feel free to change the WiFi password on a daily basis. Sit back and enjoy as the kids really work hard to get that password from you. They will do chores in order to get that sweet, sweet WiFi.
The night before School
Set out all the clothing and supplies for the next day.
- In two-parent homes the need to be on the same page is vital. When you are your partner are united it is difficult for the children to take the reigns.
- If you have older children or high technology use, change the WiFi password an hour before you want them to bed or use some other software restriction. That will get them bored and ready to go to bed in no time.
- Getting your children’s sleep-wake cycle predictable will actually help to reduce their feelings of depression and anxiety (*Society for Neuroscience, 2018).
- Set those age-appropriate routines for waking up and going to bed. Examples are songs to sing when it is bedtime or time to get up, and books to read. Other activities like meals, bathing, brushing teeth, changing from or into pajamas help to give your child a cue to know it is bedtime or time to get up.
- Last but not least, taking care of yourself. Understand things won’t always go smoothly. When you can take care of your own health there will be more of you to go around for your children.
Remember, children thrive when their environment is predictable. Also, teenagers need more sleep than every other age group except newborn children.
And be patient with yourself. Understand where you are in life and what your resources are. As you get your kids back on schedule things will get easier. You got this!
–Jayson Carmona, Marriage & Family Therapist
Reference- * Society for Neuroscience. (2018, November 5). Disrupted circadian rhythms may drive anxiety and exacerbate brain disorders: New studies reveal critical role of healthy sleep and powerful role of circadian rhythm regulation in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105122449.htm