Opinion

Back to school: How we handle the transition

It's that time of year again, as parents guide their kids through the rough back-to-school transition.

back-to-school-transition

Photo: iStockphoto

The Labour Day weekend is always the least relaxing long holiday weekend on the calendar for us.

Read more: Labour Day weekend: What to do from coast to coast>

Instead of soaking in the final days of summer, we usually spend it tackling a bunch of last-minute preparations for the back-to-school rush. We are pretty much in scramble mode as we try and answer the following questions:

“Do both the kids have a pair of indoor shoes?”

“Where are their backpacks?”

“Somebody did clean out their lunch packs on June 30th, right?”

In a perfect world, you won’t find a slimy piece of eight-week-old salami in the lunch pack but, as we all know, parenting is far from perfect. We all make mistakes and we all tend to let things slide. And that means you have probably gotten a little careless with your child’s routine over the summer.

The summer heat has a way of melting away most parental rules. More junk food is eaten. The bedtimes are later. Math quizzes are put on hold. Heck, nobody pulls out a calculator in the summer—unless it’s to impress a child on how you can spell the word “HELLO” upside down.

But now it’s time to suddenly switch from the good summer cop—who lets their kid go to sleep at 10:30 p.m.—to the bad fall cop—who enforces a strict bedtime on school nights. It wasn’t an uncommon scene at our place this summer for me to be settling down to watch Jimmy Kimmel Live and suddenly realize our six-year-old was still hanging out on the couch.

Me: “I thought we put you to bed 90 minutes ago.”

Six-year-old: “Nope. I’m not tired.”

Me: “OK then. Want me to make some popcorn?”

But on Labour Day weekend, you have to start the transition back to the more structured routine. It’s almost like you’ve taken a trip across a few time zones and now you are dealing with jet lag. The child’s body clock is all screwed up, as if you’ve spent two weeks in Hong Kong—and now you really only have about 72 hours to get it all back on track.

Read more: Sleep solutions for all ages>

And it’s not just the sleep habits that need to be adjusted. Junk food tends to creep into our house a little more often in the summer, so the kids feel a cold slap of reality when the food options are no longer fun.

Child: “But Dad, last week you let me have Fuzzy Peaches and Mountain Dew for breakfast!”

Me: “That was Summer Dad. Now you are talking to Back-To-School Dad. So, stop your complaining and eat your quinoa crunch cereal.”

The next 72 hours will consist of us slowing morphing back into the responsible and stern parents—trading in our Hawaiian shirts for a sensible, button-up dress shirt and khakis. (Thankfully, a picture of me wearing a Hawaiian shirt does not accompany this blog post).

Read more: Get back to the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition>

I know that some parents will suggest you keep a consistent set of rules for the entire calendar year. Have consistent bedtime routines and junk food rules that are enforced equally in September and July and you won’t run into any issues.

But those are probably the same parents who have everything labeled and ready to go for the next school year by the first of July. And really, where’s the fun in that?

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.