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Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition

School has started, but many of us parents still struggle to get organized and get out the door on time. These simple steps should help de-stress your morning.

By Blake Eligh
Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition

We admit it — September catches us off-guard. Every August, we plan to roll back bedtimes, schedule daily reading sessions, and get our kids back into a routine and yet, somehow, it doesn’t happen.  The lazy days of summer and the hop-to-it days of September just don’t mix.  We buried our heads (and toes) in the sand, but it’s not too late. Here’s what you can do now to slip back into the school routine.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: ideabug/iStockphoto

Start the night before

Every good morning starts the night before. For kids big and little (and grown-ups, too), lay out everything needed for the next morning. Cut back on early morning arguments by choosing next-day school outfits, set shoes and backpacks at the ready by the front door and have lunch bags ready-to-go in the fridge. Set the table for breakfast (better yet, get the kids to pitch in). A few minutes of preparation tonight will help the morning go smoothly.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: JDawnInk/iStockphoto

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Get to bed on time

Summer nights have a way of stretching out bedtimes. Now that school is in, snap back into routine by setting a regular time for PJs on and lights out. For the first week back, it doesn’t hurt to back up your family’s bedtime routine by 15 minutes or so to give everyone time to wind down before sleep. While you’re at it, make sure all screens (yours, too!) are powered down at least an hour before bedtime. Studies show that taking a break from glowing screens can help everyone rest easy.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: ruizluquepaz/iStockphoto

Set the alarm a few minutes early

Mornings in many houses can be hectic and frazzled, and even more so as an entire family tries to get with a new routine. Set everyone’s alarm clocks a few minutes early to give sleepy heads a little extra time to wake-up and to build a time cushion into the morning hustle.

If you can manage it, grab a few early morning minutes for yourself before the daily race begins.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: alvarez/iStockphoto

Put everything in its place

It’s true, you do need a place for everything — or at least a place for the mountain of crumpled school papers that will start tumbling through the door.

Hanging files, binders, a catch-all basket, whatever your system, stick with it and make sure everyone knows where school papers go when they empty their backpacks. It will save the inevitable last-minute scramble for permission slips and fundraiser forms.

If you haven't yet, jot down contact info for teachers, school offices and care providers. Stick them on the fridge, on your smartphone and in your desk drawer. You’re going to need them.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: wragg/iStockphoto

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Organize after-school time

The after-school slot can be as hectic as the morning as kids shuttle between activities, care providers and home. Every week, take a few minutes to figure out who needs to be where. Set up a standard time and workspace for older kids to handle homework and for parents to review the daily planner sent home from school.

September is a good time to revisit family screen time rules, too. It cuts down on arguments if everyone knows when and for how long they can play.

To keep from being too regimented, leave time for fun. The school day is busy and packed with new information that kids need time to process. Work downtime into the routine, leaving space for free play, daydreaming or zoning out in front of the television.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: Brainsil/iStockphoto

Make a meal plan

Back-to-school means back to regular mealtimes, too. With a good set-up, kids can make their own lunches — parents can delegate the dreaded chore and give children power over the midday meal. We love this simple solution that Today's Parent Editor-in-chief Karine Ewart uses to keep her four children fed through the week.

For the after-work-and-school scramble, it helps to have a weekly dinner plan. Family members can help by suggesting favourite meal ideas (think fresh-cooked, frozen meals, slow-cooker or assembled from grab-and-go grocery items) to keep that stack of take-out menus off the table.

Delegate age-appropriate tasks so everyone can pitch in. Small kids can help with setting the table or pouring drinks, while older family members can prep vegetables or even cook meals. For lots of fast and tasty dinner ideas, check out our recipes.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: laflor/iStockphoto

Remember family time

Back to school is a big change of pace. Families go from being on top of each other all day to scattered far and wide.  The most important item on your family schedule is to take time at the end of the day to reconnect. Whether it’s a round of “Best part of the day” during dinner or an informal chat after the dishes are done, find a few minutes to check in with your kids to find out how they’re doing, what they think of the new teacher and get the gossip on how their friends spent the summer.

Get back in the routine: 7 simple steps to help the back-to-school transition Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto

This article was originally published on Sep 04, 2012

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