Beat the Back to School Blues

Well it’s that time of year again. The kids are ready for it and so am I. Every year I am amazed at how this happens. When school gets out in June for the summer we are all ready for a break. We want to give up the hustle and bustle of the school and extracurricular routine in favor of the “dog days of summer” (we really spent this summer lounging around our backyard with our new puppy!). And by the time September rolls around we (my kids and I) are ready to start up the school schedule all over again. In fact, we actually crave the routine, rigor, and balance that school and extracurricular activities can give us if we manage them right. How exactly do we “balance” all that goes into the school routine? Actually, this is something that I have been trying to perfect since my oldest began school. Each year I find some tip or idea that I want to try and implement to make our family’s routine smoother and less stressful. As you might have guessed from my latest blog post series titled “I Don’t Like It” one area that I focused on was the family meal. I feel confident that I have mastered a few tricks (such as those that I shared in the posts) that have proven successful for my family. In today’s blog post I would like to share my most useful tips and tricks for managing the school transition and busy family schedules throughout the school year. We have used these tips over the years and they have stuck with us because they work so well for our family.

*Re-establish morning routines at least a few days before school starts.

*Turn the tv off in the morning. (My husband and I like to watch the morning news but we have found that the morning goes smoother without the background distractions of the tv regardless of what is on.)

*Designate a spot for children’s backpack, lunches,  jackets, and all materials needed daily for school.

*Have ALL backpacks and lunches packed and ready for school each night before. (Don’t forget lunch money, permission slips, PE clothes, homework, notes for the teacher etc.)

*Have a weekly calendar with the family member’s extracurricular activities listed. I like to include school library days and PE days to remind my kids to dress for PE and bring their library books to school. List music if your student needs to remember to bring an instrument to school.

*Have children select their clothes the night before and put them in a designated place for easy retrieval in the morning.

*Post a morning and evening routine for each child. I list the things they need to do after they wake up in the morning and before bed each night and post the lists on the door of their rooms. The list is fairly short and in the order that things should be completed. Be sure that it is appropriate for their developmental level. For example, my preschooler has her list in picture form while my older children have written lists.

*Establish a time and place for homework. This becomes especially important toward the end of elementary school. Homework time may need to be flexible given each child’s after school schedule. Try to have a quiet and comfortable place for each child to study, in separate rooms or together. The key is for the area to be quiet, free from distractions, and have all of the materials that children need to get their work done. It may also be important that an adult make themselves available for homework support at this time as well. It may be okay to cook dinner, read the mail, or check your text messages at this time but be prepared to put everything aside if your child needs your help with their homework. Your undivided attention is essential for success when helping your child with homework.

*Think critically about your children’s extracurricular activities. Consider the time commitment required of you and your child (and any siblings that get dragged around during transporting). Over scheduling your child can be stressful for the entire family. I know because I have done it. This year we are trying something new. I have given the kids reasonable choices that include carpool options and Saturday options.

Check out the link to the National Association of School Psychologists for more tips and ideas for the transition from summer to school. I also like the article 10 Back to School Tips for Parents of Elementary and School Aged Kids brought to you by parentfurther.com. The article suggests practical and useful tips for managing school schedules and extracurricular activities and they are listed by age range from preschool through high school. Many of the tips that I have listed above are also mentioned in both of the article links I suggested. I find that the more I see or hear a particular suggestion the more I am enticed to try it out for myself. Hopefully you will find something new today that takes the blues out of going back to school.