It’s transition time! As summer moves into fall and school begins again, there’s an opportunity to approach the shift with conscious choices to help ease us into the coming academic year. In this article, you’ll find some suggestions for navigating schedule changes, family transitions, as well as school relationships.
Changes to the Daily Schedule
During summer, it can feel really good to take an anything goes approach—the kids are on vacation, and as long as everyone gets to camp and work on time, it’s a win. When school’s in session, though, the stakes are higher. The school year can be a great time to lean into the structure of a predictable routine, especially when it comes to sleep and mealtimes.
Sleep: Sleep is vital to staying healthy and happy; getting enough of it means easier mornings. If bedtime has slipped to the later side during the summer, a week or more before school starts, start shifting it back. If a big adjustment is needed, start the bedtime routine a little bit earlier every day to ease into it. Here are some general guidelines for sleep by age. While every kid is different, a regular sleep schedule is beneficial for everyone—including parents.
Meals: Having meals generally at the same time every day provides kids with helpful structure and consistency. Eating a healthy breakfast before leaving for school is a great start (and easier to accomplish when kids are rested).
If you’re packing school lunches, consider making a list of go-to lunch and snack items you can prepare or assemble in advance to make mornings easier. You may already have your favorite reusable lunch containers, but if not, thermoses like these and stainless steel leak-proof containers can fit easily into an insulated lunch bag.
Dinner time might move a little depending on the day’s activities, but having a usual window of time for dinner will mean nobody gets beyond hungry or too tired before dinner.
Planning as a Family for Transitions
Putting the weekly schedule together for after school care, lessons, sports, homework, and household chores can be a real puzzle. Before school starts, try to set aside some time to make a plan with your family. Make a point of including your children (depending on their ages) in the planning process. Asking them to come up with ideas, seriously considering their suggestions, and hearing out any objections they may have can help you create a plan that everybody buys into and takes ownership for. Leave room for the plan to work better some days than others, and of course some last-minute shuffling may be necessary from time to time. One way to maintain a little ease for everyone can be to schedule some regular down-times during the week.
School Ups and Downs
The new school year can bring up all kinds of emotions. One kid might be looking forward to the coming year—new classmates, a different teacher, and new subjects; another kid might be dreading the same. All of those feelings can get heightened, too, depending on the circumstances (like if they are joining a new school). The pressure of trying out for a sports team, a role in the class play, or running for student council can be a lot, as well. As a parent, it can help to:
- Be aware of your own expectations and potential anxieties, because those can contribute to whatever your child may feel.
- Stay open and available for your kids’ concerns, leading with curiosity and leaning into empathy.
- Engage with your kids to brainstorm some alternative options in case things don’t go the way they hope or expect.
- Model some ways to respond to stress rather than reacting to it, including mindful breathing (extending the exhale like in resonant breathing) or moving your body (dancing, jumping, taking a walk, etc.).
- Check in with your kids to make sure that their extracurriculars are things they enjoy (not simply what you or other family members always hoped they’d enjoy or be good at).
And sometimes, it’s helpful to get some support when your kids are stressed or overwhelmed. Through StressWell, Dr. Gilgoff offers novel interventions and strategies which can balance an overactive stress response system. Give us a call or drop us an email—we look forward to helping.