When your kids get six weeks off over the summer holidays it’s no surprise that your usual routine goes out the window. Bedtimes are later, mornings are slower, holidays mean homework gets pushed back and trying to get your kids to sit down a read a book before they go to bed seems near impossible.
So how can you ensure your child is ready for the early morning alarms and the routine of a school day come the beginning of September?
The key is to do it gradually.
Get them to do a few minutes of school work each day.
You might head straight into their bad books for getting them to sit down and do their spellings, but trust us - it’ll make things a whole lot easier when they start school.
John Adams, owner of Dad Blog UK, said he does this with his kids because it makes things easier in the long run. “I ensure they do a few minutes of school work each day, be it spellings, maths, etc,” he says. “This way it’s not quite such a shock when they go back.”
Nyomi Winter, a blogger, says she is also doing this with her six-year-old, who is heading into Year 2. “I’m going to increase his reading and educational activities so it’s not a shock to his system when he begins the school year,” she says.
Start those early bedtimes.
“The week before going back, I insist on earlier bedtimes and don’t let the kids lie in,” says Adams.
Dipti Tait, a sleep expert who partnered with Time 4 Sleep, says if you don’t get your child back into a routine, it will be a challenge getting the kids up in the morning and ultimately lead to them having a less productive day at school.
She recommends re-introducing the wind-down hour the few weeks before they go back to school: “Get your nightcaps on, make a round of hot chocolate, have them choose their favourite bedtime story and snuggle down for an early night. A good night’s sleep is key to rebooting your system and clearing the brain memory ready for a new day of learning.”
Get up and out the house earlier.
Emma Louise, a mum who blogs at Even Angels Fall, says in the final two weeks before school starts she starts arranging things to do in the day that start earlier, so the children get used to mornings again.
“I’ve been trying to get them ready by getting up and out of the house earlier than usual recently,” she says. “I think then the back to school morning routine isn’t so much of a shock. It’s also been nice as it gives us more time once we are out for the day, to enjoy the last couple of weeks of the holidays.”
Do school admin.
In the weeks leading up to the start of school, getting everything ready for the first day (book bags, school uniform, stationery, etc.) will subconsciously remind your child what’s coming up. Leaving it all to the last minute means your child is likely to not think about it.
Adams says he buys school uniform, puts his kids names in it and irons it all at least a week before the start of school. If you need to buy stationery or any school supplies for your children, take them with you for a shopping trip to buy it and start to bring the idea of going back to school into your conversations with them.
Challenge negative attitudes about school.
As soon as you start preparing for this back to school period, it’s natural that some children may start expressing negative thoughts and words about going back (the early mornings, homework, their teacher they don’t like).
Taylar Ashlin, lead paediatric neuropsychologist at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children previously told HuffPost UK that it’s important to ensure your child’s emotional experience is validated and normalised. “Parents can do this while also challenging negative thinking that may be underlying challenging behaviours,” she said. “For example, you could say: ‘Most children don’t want to go back to school but at least you will see your friends again and can tell them of all the fun things you did on holiday.’”
Create a weekly planner.
Emma Maslin, a mum who blogs at The Money Whisperer, says in the weeks leading up to the first day back, she creates a planner to make sure everyone in the house knows who is where and when. “I mark up any times the kids are in breakfast clubs, after school clubs, school trips or extra curricular activities,” she explains. “If anyone else does drop offs or pick ups for these (like grandparents), I give them a quick reminder of the day school starts back.
“I also prepare a meal plan for the first couple of weeks back and make sure there are some firm favourites on there as the kids will be tired when they get back in to the school routine and you want to make life easy.”