Have you ever noticed that each summer month has a unique feel to it? June means letting go of the rigid daily schedule and sliding into summer. July has an endless feel to it; time for the pool, later dinners, and a less regimented way of living. Even though the weather hasn’t changed, August has an air of movement about it. The school supply sales are advertised before you want to think about them. It’s time to gear up for the next phase of the year—school.
Practically speaking (I’m all about being practical) there are a couple of things parents can do to set the stage for a successful school year. Yes, we take the trip to our favorite school supply store and make the purchases. And, yes, we make sure everyone has sneakers that fit and clothes that will take the kids from end of summer’s heat to fall’s first chill. Most important, however, is a predictable routine to the day that includes sufficient sleep.
In order to function at their best, children (and adults!) need sufficient sleep. A good night’s sleep restores the body and brain and enables children to do the hard work of learning and interacting with others. Children who are overtired are not operating at peak performance either academically or socially. We live in a society that rarely slows down. Let’s face it, 8 hours is not enough for most children. It is our job as parents to make sure that our children get the sleep they need. If your child’s bedtime is currently in summer mode, you’ll want to start moving towards the school schedule.
Start building your routine a week or two before the first day of school.
- Make bedtime 15 minutes earlier. Keep it there for a day or two, then back it up again. Keep moving in 15 minutes increments until your child is going to sleep at the time they need to on a school night.
- Remember to wake them up 15 minutes earlier too!
- Plan a wake up time that allows your children to be ready to leave without having to frantically rush around the house in the morning. Starting the day in a good mood is better for everyone—children and parents.
- Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be eaten. A toasted waffle with peanut butter or a different spread is quick, easy, and portable if you’re running late.
- Establish the afternoon routine from the first day. Homework has to get done. When it gets done is a different issue. If your child needs to move his body before he can focus on homework send him out for a bit before he begins. If it’s a struggle for him to complete it in one sitting break the assignment into manageable pieces and have him take short breaks between chunks.
- Homework is your child’s responsibility; the environment is your responsibility. Make sure all technology is off and out of reach (phones, ipads, computer, tv, etc.) so the focus is solely on homework. Multi-tasking is NOT a desired skill.
My family always ended summer vacation with a family tradition. We planned one last big event that signaled an end to summer and a beginning to a new and exciting school year. Although the event was different each year, the tradition became firmly entrenched in our family. Enjoy your end to summer, and more importantly, enjoy the beginning of the next phase of family life.