Fireflies, vacations, campfires, sleepovers, and drive-in movies. As a parent, your summer to-do was just as packed as your kids. But as July moves forward faster than all of winter, school looms around the corner for many school-aged families.
With back to school comes bedtimes and tears. But it also brings back routine to a chaotic schedule. Though many believe we could always live in summer forever, the truth is kids need structure. They need structured sleep just as much as structured school days.
How can everyone transition their houses from summer nights to putting the kids to sleep while the sun is still setting?
- Bedtime. Be a good role model for your kids, parents. If you start the schedule a few weeks prior to school starting, keep the schedule. And start transitioning yourself as well. Some parents alter their summer work schedules to stay at home or work remotely. Whatever transition disrupts the summer schedule, start relaxing back into routine.
- Weekends. Keep the weekend schedules more relaxed with pool time and late Fridays. Sleepovers, campfires, and mini-trips can still pack your weekends. But make certain to keep Sunday bedtimes on a schedule.
- Electronics. Keep the tablets, video games, and electronics to short spurts before dinnertime. By eliminating devices, bedtime routines will be easier and will calm an active child’s mind. Long term, make the bedroom an electronic-free environment during the week to avoid arguments or sneaky kids when the lights are out.
- Shop. Back to school supply shopping is a sure way to start the transition. Kids love picking out their backpacks, folders, and new clothes. When you start the process, the kids start realizing school is just around the corner getting them excited to see their friends.
- Outdoors. For a great night sleep, keep your kids outdoors. Catching fireflies, playing baseball in the front yard, or riding your bike, it will wear your kids out easily. Moving the bedtime up doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! And the extra exercise outside will cause tired bodies for a fuller night sleep.
- Healthy. Popsicles, nachos, and hot dogs may have been a staple all summer but start gravitating towards healthier food options. Pack a picnic with healthy choices to still chase summer days with the kids while the transition begins.
- Appointments. Once everyone is back in school activities, working 8 to 5, and homework filling the evening hours, try to squeeze in any dental, doctor, or orthodontist appointments before the first week of school. You will have less headaches once school starts back up to take care of all the pesky wellness checks.
- Communicate.The most important lesson for parents is communication. Make certain your kids know (no matter what age) when school starts. Have a countdown on the fridge to get everyone excited. Help explain why the sun is still out but sleep time is important for learning. Any changes to the routine need communication.
Let’s not forget the teachers! For the past three months, teachers have enjoyed some quiet, long days full of sunshine versus 25 kids to a classroom. Though they also need to follow a routine, there are some other tips to adjust back to a routine for teachers.
- Reflect on the year. Take some time to think about what went well and what did not go well during the previous school year. You can adjust where needed to reduce the number of missed opportunities or chaos in the classroom.
- Set goals. It is a new year and new students. Set some new goals over the summer that motivates you for the fall.
- Work ahead. Though it is hard to work on a summer off after a rough year of teaching, planning and working ahead is essential. Take a few weeks off then get the classroom ready early so you can enjoy the last few weeks before school starts. Make any classroom rules and day one of school so communication starts early with students.
- Set a routine. Just like parents and children, you need your rest. If you can take the time and motivate yourself to move big rocks in the summer, the week leading up to the first day of school will go smoother. Start a set exercise routine, do some meal planning for the first few weeks, and go to bed a little earlier each night. Even wake up a little earlier each day. Everything helps in starting back.
If your checklist is complete and your child is not keen to the routine, there may be some underlying reasons. Maybe they are anxious about a new teacher, new friends, and a new classroom. Here are some tips to help create an anxiety-free zone at home:
- Be available. Talk to your kids one-on-one so they know you are listening. Keep the time focused without the disturbance of a cell phone or television. Maybe the best place is to talk outside the house. But wherever you talk, make sure they know you are their number one fan.
- Avoid caffeine. If the routine is working, consider the elimination of caffeine to before dinner. By cutting out all caffeine 3 hours before bedtime, it will limit bathroom trips and limit the mind being stimulated.
- Add oils. For some kids, the ambiance of a room is just as important as the routine. Consider trying lavender diffusers or pillow mist. Both will create a relaxing atmosphere in their bedroom.
- Bedtime routines. Maybe the routine you think works best does not work well for your child. Each person is different. Assess if you need to read a book before bedtime or add a few minutes of open talking. There needs a limitation of how many books or how long a routine at night should be but it may need to be tweaked from the original plan.
- Cool temps. Keeping their bedroom cooler helps aid the rem cycle and speed up the process of falling asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep. By keeping your room in the 60s, you increase the process. The rem cycle is more consistent versus hotter temperatures which can decrease scary dreams for little ones.
If the tips and routines have not helped, someone in your family might be suffering from a sleep disorder. It can start at any age and our board-certified sleep specialists can help starting with a free consultation.