Easing into the school year

September 13, 2022, Lynne Brown

closeup of a parent walking hand-in-hand with a young girl who weears a blue backpack
Here we are again at the start of a new school year. Equal parts excitement for the growth that will happen over this next school year and wistful wishes that summer could just go on and on.

My youngest starts high school this fall. So for the first time in many years, we have just one school calendar on the wall. It’s a little unsettling. That single calendar is lulling me into the expectation that it will be smooth sailing.

But I know there will be bumps in the road, even though we are managing just two kids and one school. 

Getting back into a routine will help us all minimize those bumps.

Having a consistent routine helps kids -and their parents – build healthy habits, establish reasonable expectations, and feel secure knowing what comes next. Here are a few ways to help ease into the school routine.

How to make back to school easier

Start off with flexible expectations.

It’s tempting to want to put together a game plan for the new year and expect everyone to hop on board with it immediately. But a new school year comes with lots of changes for your kiddo – new teacher, new classroom, maybe even a different school building. They’ll be working hard all day adjusting to new routines at school and are likely to come home exhausted. They may need time to adjust over the first couple of weeks. Keeping after-school simple can go a long way to helping tired kids. Try not to schedule appointments during these early weeks. A few days of just coming home and hanging out might help with overstimulation.

Do what you can the night before.

Make mornings a little less of a hustle by choosing clothes and packing lunches before bed. With those decisions made, the morning might have a little less chaos as everyone prepares for the day. 

Keep breakfast simple.

It’s ok to find a breakfast menu that works for everyone and use it daily. While you may want to keep some variety in the lunch and dinner menu, providing the same breakfast each day eliminates the need for choices and decisions. The fewer decisions there are to make in the morning, the easier it is going to be to get out the door.

Find a rhythm that works for your family.

Each one of us is unique. Family members all have different interests, attitudes, and responses to shared experiences. What works for one family may not work for another. Within your family, find a rhythm of living and working together that meets the needs of each individual. When individual needs are met it is easier to cooperate, accommodate, and support each other. This goes for kids, too. Arriving home together at dinner time, starving from a long afternoon of activities, some families will jump into dinner prep to get that meal on the table ASAP. Others might find it works better for everyone if there is some snacking as soon as they get home, with dinner served later in the evening at a more leisurely pace. Do what works for the people you live with. 

Benefits of a routine

Whatever you choose, have a routine that is predictable, so that everyone knows what to expect. Knowing what comes next, when things get done, and what is expected of them helps smooth out the bumps of family life. Predictability supports social-emotional well-being and builds self-confidence. Repetition helps children build skills. Do what you can to make each day as predictable as possible. It will reduce stress and anxiety, making for a happier family life.

Here’s to a smooth transition into the school year for all our families!