Summer is almost over, and we’re getting ready for a new school year. My son will return to college soon (sniff, sniff), and my husband and I will go back to figuring out the daily puzzle of carpool, sports, school, and work schedules. Neither of my kids will say they’re ready for summer to end – and it will be a shock to their systems when they have to set an alarm and wake up early again – but I can feel the anticipation and excitement starting to build. As hard as it is to leave behind the relaxed pace of summer, the start of the school year represents new opportunities and experiences that can be just as meaningful and memorable as summer vacations.
This article is created by Nicole Young, the mother of two children, ages 14 and 17, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is available locally through the Child Parent Institute. Our classes are listed at calparents.org/classes.
Dear Child Parent Institute,
My 6- and 7-year old kids are enjoying their summer break because my partner and I have been really lax about bedtime, chores, and screen time. We’ve also been spending a lot of family time together, which is hard to do when our schedules are so hectic during the school year. It’s been nice, but now I’m worried that getting them back into the school routine will be a rough transition! What can I do now to ease them back into the school schedule?
I love that you’re planning ahead for the transition! That will make a big difference. Transitioning from a relaxed summer schedule to the structured school routine is difficult for many children and families. Taking a few steps now can make it easier for everyone when school starts again. Here are a few tips to try:
Talk about school. Start having casual conversations about the new school year. Ask your kids what they’re looking forward to, which friends they’ll be happy to see, and what they’re excited to learn. If your kids express fear or worries, encourage them to talk about why they feel that way. Listen, and reassure them that a lot of kids feel nervous or anxious about starting school. Let them know that sometimes the feeling goes away when school starts, and other times, kids need support to learn ways to handle their feelings. Let them know you’re available to talk and offer support any time.
Re-establish your family rules. Talk with your children and acknowledge that summertime was a fun “break” from the family rules, and now it’s time to get back into your usual routines. Take small, steady steps to re-establish the rules. This helps prevent power struggles and gives your kids plenty of time to adjust before school starts. For example, gradually reduce the amount of screen time they get each day so that by the time school starts, following the family rule about screen time limits doesn’t feel like a sudden or drastic change.
Practice your morning and evening routines. Talk with your kids about the steps to get ready for school – get up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, etc. If they’ve been sleeping in during the summer, have them get up a little earlier each morning and go through their routine, beginning at least a week before school starts. Give descriptive praise when they follow the steps of their routines independently – “Nice job getting yourself up and dressed this morning!” Do the same with bedtime routines. Prepare your children by talking with them about their weeknight bedtime and the steps of their evening routine – brush teeth, pajamas, read, hugs/cuddles, etc. If they’ve been staying up late during the summer, have them start their evening routine a little earlier each night, beginning at least a week before school starts.
Continue spending quality time together. Transitioning back to the structured school routine might be hard no matter how much you’ve planned ahead or prepared your kids. Spending quality time together makes children feel safe, secure, and loved, which can help make difficult transitions and big emotions a little easier for them (and you) to manage.
Final Thoughts: Even children who love school can have a hard time transitioning from summertime to schooltime. Taking small steps now to prepare children for the transition will help them enjoy what’s left of the summer and be ready to start the new school year with a positive attitude and eagerness to learn.
Child Parent Institute