by: Meagan Ruffing
Blink. Where did summer go? Iced tea makers and poop emoji popsicle molds have been replaced with pens, pencils and reams of paper in what feels like a matter of weeks. Just when my kids figured out how to play upstairs by themselves for longer than 10 minutes, it is now time for them to get back on a schedule where play time has to be penciled in before and after homework hour. Changing routines is difficult for anyone. Add to that multiple children and multiple ages and you have got yourself a recipe for stress.
There really is no right answer. There is no one size fits all when it comes to transitioning your kids from summer to fall; you just kind of have to get through it. I have had enough summers under my belt to know what works and does not work and from one mother to another, let me share what I have gleamed from my experiences.
First, get a calendar. Actually, buy a couple. Buy one to put on the fridge for the whole family to see, one cute one just for you, one for each of your kids’ rooms and if that isn’t enough, buy one more just because. Start with the family calendar and map out the month of August or September (whichever month your kids go back to school) and be intentional about writing down every single event in that month. When your kids know the plan, everyone wins. Have fun with this and buy some cute stickers to stick on special days – this is a great way to include your kids and get them excited about going back to school. Let your kids decorate their own calendars by marking special days with crayons or markers.
Start talking about school coming up. Use dinner time to ask your kids if they have questions about what grade they are going in to and what they are most excited about or scared about. Talk to them about what it was like when you started a new grade. Kids feels so much better when they hear, “me too.” Help ease new school jitters and social anxiety by role playing. I do this with my son sometimes when I need him to work through a situation where he might get overwhelmed when someone either intentionally or unintentionally hurts his feelings. As his mom, I know that when his feelings are hurt he lashes out verbally. To try and avoid future situations like this, we often role play about what could happen or might happen and we walk through different scenarios. You can do this too with situations that are relative to your child.
Make a special day about your child’s upcoming first day of school. If you have multiple children, take each one out individually and plan on getting at least one new outfit to get them excited about their first day. Be sure to add this shopping day to your calendar!
Now that you’ve got the schedule, role playing and shopping day nailed down, the hard part is actually getting your children to understand that staying up late is a thing of the past and bedtimes are back in full swing. There a few simple things you can do to help with this transition. For some people, simply putting their kids to bed 15 minutes earlier each night the week before school starts works for them. For others, their kids catch on to this and fight tooth and nail to stay up. To avoid the fight, try this: tell your child he can stay up until the time you have decided and tell him he can read in his bedroom up until that time. Set a timer, set his watch, give him that independence to have the feeling that he is the one who is in charge of when he closes his eyes when in reality, your child is upstairs, in his bed at the time you wanted him to be. He will eventually learn the new routine and setting the timer will be replaced with him falling asleep on his own.
Another tip for helping your children with the transition from summer to fall is by keeping things simple. This means not scheduling a million things all in one day for your child. Pick one extracurricular activity and let your daughter have lots of free time before bed time. Maybe sign her up for soccer and save dance for next season. It’s okay to have blank space on your calendar. Trust me. This is called letting your child use her imagination and allowing yourself time to fit in those unexpected things that come up in life. A busy schedule isn’t always better. Keeping things simple and low key for your kids can be exactly what they need to start the new school year off right.
Try these tips to help you and your family ease into a new schedule this fall and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your kids will adjust. Tweak these suggestions to fit your family’s needs and remember, keep it simple.
Meagan Ruffing has already started her kids’ back-to-school routine and is soaking up every memory before her daughter starts kindergarten this month. You can see more of Meagan’s work at www.meaganruffing.com or read about her story in her new book, “I See You”: Helping Moms Go from Overwhelmed to In Control, sold on Amazon.