During school vacations many families enjoy a more relaxed schedule. This can be fun and enjoyable for traditionally busy parents as well as students. But when the vacation comes to an end it can be challenging getting a family back into the structure of a routine. There are many simple and practical things parents can do to make this transition easier. The following are tips to help get kids back on track smoothly.
- Starting 2 days early getting children up at the time they will need to awake when school starts. Getting kids up earlier is easy than trying to force them to go to bed earlier, and a better way to reset their internal clocks. Make sure you are going to bed earlier also.
- A few days before school starts, begin to focus on a healthier diet (during holidays kids can get into the habit of eating poorly which leads to cranky behavior and low frustration tolerance). Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are great things to include. Refined sugar, white flour and caffeine are good things to exclude.
- Make sure you have signed all important paperwork that needs to go with your child to school the night before.
- Help children pick out what they will wear to school the night before. Having this choice made and clothes set out can be a great time saver in the morning.
- Pack their lunches the night before, or at least make sure you have all the needed lunch items in the house to make packing lunches an expedient chore.
- Know what you are going to make for breakfast the night before. This can help parents feel calmer in the morning, and can be one less decision you have to make.
- Write a short check list to keep in the car. Go over it before you leave your home. “Shoes, lunches, lunch money, notes signed, homework, instrument or sports equipment”, etc.
- Set up a schedule for yourself. Get to bed early enough yourself. Knowing where and when you need to be places will help you feel more in control of your own time, and leave you feeling less rushed with your children. (Consider waking up 15 minutes earlier than needed just to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea and plan out your own day.)
- Create a peaceful non-rushed environment in the mornings before school. Put on soft music. Have the smells of breakfast cooking when you wake the kids. Find a joke to tell them while they’re eating breakfast. Make sure you give them five compliments for every directive. (A directive is a command or criticism such as “go get your shoes on,” etc.)
- Keep the television off in the morning.
- Leave time for the unexpected. (10-15 min.)
- Put in a tape of silly kid songs for the drive to school or listen to one of the children’s stations on the radio. (This can go a long way in diminishing sibling rivalry in the car).
- Praise your children for being on time. Build in the expectation that you know they will cooperate and you will be on time.
- If it takes a few days to get back into the swing of things be patient with yourself and them. The lighter you keep the interaction, the more cooperation you will get. (Building self-esteem and good feelings about themselves is more important than every hair being in place.)
© 2004 Dr. Lois V. Nightingale, Clinical Psychologist (psy9503) and Director of the Nightingale Center in Yorba Linda, Calif. (714) 993-5343.