How is it that the days can feel so long, but before you know it the months are flying by? Every year goes by faster and I have a feeling it won’t slow down. Whether you have preschoolers or older kiddos, the school year is either already here for you, or right around the corner.
The whole ‘back-to-school’ transition is a much bigger interruption to the home front than I realized when I was a kid.
I see now how much goes into the changing seasons and beginning a whole new routine that will mark the year for our kids and our families. But, just like our strollers help you breeze through your errands and travel, we’re here to help you glide through this year’s back-to-school transition with these sweet and sharp tips!
1. But first, sleep
One of the most enjoyable parts of summer is how long the days are, so the afternoons can be relaxed if kids are old enough to stay up late. But as the school year begins, so do early wake-ups and no one wants to be on the other end of sleep cut short. Stay ahead of the game by starting to put the kids to bed and waking them up earlier a whole week or two before school starts. Each night, you can push up bedtime and wake-up time in 15-20 minute increments until everyone is waking up when they need to for a smooth school morning routine. Of course, this is easier said than done. May the odds be ever in your favor.
2. Practice the Routine
If there’s one thing I learned during my days as an elementary school teacher, it's that kids thrive on routine. As the household manager, think about what needs to get done in order for your family to get out the door on a school morning. Make a list and shuffle things around until you’ve got a structured morning routine that you can follow every single day. Consistency is key! If you’re up for it, set a timer and go through a dry run of your morning - going through all the motions with your kids. They’ll get a kick out of pretending to get dressed/eat breakfast etc, but they’ll also be mentally storing the routine which will make the real thing way easier since they know exactly what to expect! And from one mama to another, let me encourage you to create and keep a morning routine of your own that begins BEFORE the kids are awake. It’s like those oxygen masks on the airplane, you’ll be better equipped to care for everyone else when your needs have already been met. You deserve it!
3. Feel it Out
If we’re feeling nervous about our children having nerves, we might try to avoid the topic of school entirely. This is our way of self-protecting because it is way uncomfortable to see our children in their own discomfort. But instead of avoiding it, let’s face it head-on and actually ask how our kids are feeling about starting school! Talk about their excitement or nervousness. Or role play some of the scenarios that have lingering unknowns like where to sit at lunchtime or who to play with on the playground or what if I need something and don’t know what to do. When we bring the feelings to light, we help our kids understand their emotions for what they are and it gives us a chance to establish ourselves as a safe place of reassurance and support. Win-win!
I am all about creating atmospheres that evoke a sense of being set apart, or special. On special days, I try to create *with simplicity* details that make coming downstairs and turning the corner a delightful surprise for our children. It gives them the excitement that launches them into the day with eager confidence. For back-to-school we hang an apple banner, I decorate butcher paper with school-themed doodles, and balloons always add that party feel. My husband goes into work a little late so he can be present for a Back-To-School breakfast - where muffins, fruit, and juice sprawl out on the table in no fancy arrangement. We read a prayer over them from To Light Their Way and mostly we just try to exude our authentic excitement for and confidence in them. If your little one is feeling particularly nervous, I highly recommend some Ready Confetti or First Day of School Bracelets (for any grade!). Seriously, check them out!
5. After-School Routine
School is a highly structured environment where our kids are working hard to pay attention, follow rules, and socialize with peers. There are a lot of demands to keep up with, and most kids don’t have the chance to move as much as they really need. As a result, it is incredibly easy for kids to become dysregulated. This causes them to feel out of sorts and can eventually cause them to act out - especially once they’re home and in their safe space. An after-school routine can help them regulate and transition back into the home environment. There are endless possibilities when it comes to what you can include in this routine and it all comes down to personality preferences and what works in your home. One thing across the board, though, is that our kids need the chance to move their bodies and decompress. Have fun coming up with an after-school routine that your family might love, and if you need ideas, this is a great resource with example routines for all age groups.
6. Teacher Gift
This one might surprise you, but you’ll be amazed at how well it works! Have fun scouring Pinterest for a teacher gift idea that speaks to you. It can be something you make, a few things you buy and assemble together, or even something straight off the teacher’s classroom wish list with a bow around it. The point is that you’re finding a practical gift that will show your appreciation for all the hard work they have put into getting ready for your child (believe me, it’s a TON of work). Include your child in the process and allow them to have some ownership over the gift by picking it out, putting it together, or coloring/writing a card. Then, on the first day of school give your kiddo the very important job of delivering this very special gift. Thinking about others has a way of making us forget about ourselves. And when you’re feeling nervous, that’s a beautiful thing! And believe me, the teacher is not expecting this! It never hurts to touch a soft spot, especially with your teacher on the first day of school.
Save your sanity on the first day of school by taking your child’s First Day of School photos on a different day! It’s a great way to try on the special outfit and capitalize on the excitement (and real smiles) of school starting without the nerves that can come out that morning. You can still post them on the actual first day of school. We won’t tell a soul!
This whole back-to-school thing - it’s going to be great! Remember that you have the opportunity to be the thermostat in your home, instead of the thermometer. Practice the new routine, prioritize sleep, talk about all the feels, and of course, celebrate, and you’ll be smooth strolling into the new school year!