Family Life: Don't sleep on your back-to-school routines
By Chelsey Byers/University of Illinois Extension
Summertime for kids usually means fewer routines, later nights and sleeping in more, compared to during the school year. However, there are signs everywhere to show us that school is just around the corner. It is evident by the store ads, the school supplies that are spilling out in to the middle aisles of our local stores and by seeing August on our calendars. With the school year beginning soon, you'll want to make sure both you and your kids are starting to get back into your schooltime routines.
A great way to ease back in to earlier bedtimes is to make that change gradually instead of just trying to start the school year with a sudden change. Start by gradually making the bedtime earlier by 15 minutes until you are at the desired bedtime. Earlier bedtimes should bring earlier mornings that hopefully won't be as rough if beginning the night before school starts. Work toward well-rested kids for the first day of class.
Sleep is so important for kids to function well. Having a daily routine signals the brain and body to calm down and they know that bedtime is coming. For some, it can be a very short routine of prepping for the next day, baths, brushing teeth and saying goodnight; for others it may be a longer routine. Some kids need some designated down time reading a book or listening to music before the lights go out; others may simply need some quiet time without any stimuli to settle into a good night's sleep. As children age, routines will evolve.
Make sure that you plan enough time in the mornings for kids to get ready for the day as well as time for breakfast. You may need more time in the beginning in order for people to get back to their routines. Once routines are running smoothly, it may not take as much time for everyone to get ready and out of the house.
Give your family time to learn the new routine. When everyone is hurrying around in the morning and time is running short, the stress level of everyone in the house will rise. The goal is to have everyone's morning start off smoothly and not in rushed chaos. It is amazing how the start of one's day can affect the rest of the day for better or for worse.
For children who are not "morning" people, it would be best to include things in their evening routine that will make the morning smoother and less stressful. If they take a long time choosing clothes or preparing their backpacks and lunch, have these as part of their evening routine to reduce the stress in the morning for everyone.
When thinking about schedules and routines, oftentimes, summer schedules get off with later dinners due to longer days (sunlight) or extracurricular activities. Routine mealtimes are another important schedule to try to keep.
When thinking about changing household routines — bedtimes, wake-up times, meal times — there is going to be an adjustment phase. Recognizing that change may be hard, it might be best to talk about the new routines with your kids before you implement them. For those that can read, even write them out so they can see them. It may be a challenge at first, but if you start early, your family can ease in to it. Use these routines to teach children time-management skills. In the end, there will be less stress for you as a parent and therefore less stress for the household.
For more information on a large variety of family life-related topics visit our local University of Illinois Extension website http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ or contact Chelsey Byers at 217-333-7672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.