Many parents cherish summer for its freedom. It is a time for unrushed days and tons of unstructured time for play. Even though the children often love to return to school for the social aspect, it can be difficult for them to readjust to a set schedule and a commute. Fortunately there are some gentle ways to lessen the stress for families as they readjust to the school time routine.
Begin returning to the school time rhythm before school actually starts. This can be done over a few weeks’ time so it is very gentle and subtle. Bedtime is an excellent example. If your child has become accustomed to late summer evenings, trim off 10 minutes each night so they do not have an abrupt change right as school is starting. Begin waking them up earlier each day, also, so they start to get used to their morning routine before they have the pressure of being somewhere on time. Lunch could be served at their regular school lunch time, and then an early dinner. Focus your intention on nourishing them during these weeks, so they feel rejuvenated, rather than tired and cranky as they adjust to a new year at school.
As you approach the first day, and during the first weeks, remember that the children may have anxiety or fear about a new teacher, or grade. Try scheduling play dates with classmates so they can reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Contact the school to see if they need any help on campus with tasks that you could also bring your child to. Visiting the school again could help your child feel more comfortable. Being involved in their school during the year also helps feel children connected to their family while they are leaving the home each day. Talk to your child’s teacher about some of the activities they are planning for the year. Without spoiling any surprises, discuss with your child some of these things to help build their excitement about experiencing new things or meeting new challenges in the coming year.
Try planning ahead as much as you are able, for the first few weeks, to make the new routine as easy as possible on all of you. Plan simple meals that your child is familiar with and enjoys; this will make meal time easier and more enjoyable for all. Utilizing a crockpot or making double batches during the summer and freezing them for the first weeks of school is also a huge help during the hectic first weeks.
Consider coming up with a strategy for school clothes and laundry. Having a “laundry day” or doing one load a day can take a considerable amount of stress out of your own routine. Think about how to organize clothes in a way that take the struggle of getting dressed in the morning. Some parents have a “school clothes” drawer that the child can choose from the evening before. Others have a small labeled bin for each day that is prepared at the beginning of the week.
How to Keep the School Time Struggle at Bay:
Rushing out of bed to get somewhere quickly never feels good, no matter what your age. Allowing your child enough time to wake up in the morning is so important. Even more important is giving them time with you, to connect before their days starts. Even just 5 minutes of special time with Mom or Dad before getting up and getting ready for school will give them the best possible beginning for their day.
With my own daughter, I found getting her up early to have some outside time with me before getting ready for school was the way to her heart. As often as possible I wake her just before the sun is rising and have her come outside with me to watch the light come over the trees. I have found this tranquil time invaluable for our connection, especially now as she is getting older (third grade!), as well as for my inner peace during my own day.