Counting Down to School

It’s that time of summer again.  You know, the time when you start to think about the summer winding down and school starting up and the shift away from carefree days of play and fun for your kids to routines, homework, bedtimes, and everything that goes with the school day.  For some families this transition is abrupt and the start of the school year becomes hell on earth for kids and parents alike.  To avoid this, I present X things you can do – starting now – that will help everyone with that transition in hopes of making it as painless as possible.

  1. Bedtimes.  Depending on the age of your child, you’ll often have later bedtimes in summer or no real set time at all, contrary to what most families have during the school year.  When kids don’t have to be up early and out, letting them stay up late is a treat and is part of what makes summer so fun for a lot of children.  With school a couple weeks away, though, you want to start thinking about slowly getting back to the usual bedtime.
    If your child doesn’t have a summer bedtime, start with one that’s still late, but doable.  Otherwise, start where you are.  Each day this time gets to be 5-10 minutes earlier, depending on how far back you need to go.   If your child isn’t tired – as it’s never a good idea to force a child to stay in bed when awake because of the associations it creates – you can make it a “roomtime” instead of bedtime.  Let your child play or read quietly in their room at a certain point instead of forcing sleep; just make sure that the lights are dim and there’s no screen time, as bright light and screens will artificially keep them awake.

  2. Wake Up Time.  Combined with the bedtime is the wake up time.  This is what helps families who wonder what the point of a “roomtime” is if the child is still going to bed late.  See what time your child is typically waking up and use that as the starting point, only have them set an alarm (or have you wake them, whatever your normal school routine is) for that time.  Each day that too goes earlier 5-10 minutes (again, depending on how much earlier your child needs to wake).  Unfortunately there will be some days where the wake up is hard and the child may be grumpy about it, but often when the transition is slow and steady, it’s not as much of a shock to the system.

  3. Responsibilities.  For many kids, their primary responsibilities go out the window when summer comes along, given that most of their responsibilities center around school (e.g., packing bags, making sure homework is done, etc.).  If your child hasn’t had regular household responsibilities over the summer (something I strongly recommend moving forward), now’s your time to start adding some in.  Set a chart to remind your kid what they have to do and add one or two things every few days.  It can be little like making the bed or larger like taking out the trash or doing the dishes, but a reminder for the child that s/he needs to work time into his/her day to get things done.

  4. Limit TV/Video Games.  Many kids get more time in the summer for these activities (sadly) because it’s like a weekend.  Unfortunately, the withdrawal can be hard on some kids when school starts and can make them irritated, have difficulty concentrating on homework, and so on.  Like bedtime and wake up time, the key is to slowly wean your kid off the amount of time they’ve been spending in front of a screen, typically lowering it around 15-20 minutes a day, depending on how much they’re on regularly.  As you increase responsibilities, this may naturally decrease, but you may need to step in and talk about it as well.  If you’re doing this, take the time to talk to your child about why you’re doing it, the effects of too much screen time, and ask them to notice how they feel when in front of the screen or away from it.  They may start to realize that less is best on their own.

Going back to school doesn’t have to be something kids dread and part of that may be that their life changes so abruptly, it seems worse than it is.  Slow and steady may be the key to your kid approaching the new school year engaged and ready!

By Tracy Cassels

August 18, 2014