Tips for Readjusting to the School Schedule

back-to-school
Image via Katie Hurley

It’s the same thing year after year.  The minute we settle into a summer routine, it’s time to think about the upcoming school year.  Soon the long days of chasing butterflies and drinking lemonade in the shade will be replaced with long days of learning and rushing back and forth to school.

It breaks my heart just a little bit, but it has to be done just the same.

The best way to get off to a great start when school does begin is to prepare in advance.  Loose summer schedules sometimes lead to slightly different sleeping and eating patterns.  Even when families maintain some structure during the summer months, it doesn’t compare to the school year.  As well it shouldn’t.

But returning to school means readjusting to the school schedule, and that simply can’t be done overnight.

Tips for readjusting to the school schedule:

Check the actual schedule:

As children grow and change grades, often their schedules shift a little bit.  While kindergarten students tend to eat lunch on the early side, by second grade students are likely eating much later.

Download your child’s upcoming schedule so that you can get a sense of what your child will be doing at various times.  You can start to structure the day in a similar pattern (outside play at recess time, lunch at the appointed hour, etc.) so that your child grows accustomed to the school schedule.

Bump up bedtime:

Loose summer schedules sometimes lead to slightly different sleeping and eating patterns.  Even when families maintain some structure during the summer months, it doesn’t compare to the school year.

If your child has been staying up later during the summer months, it’s important to gradually change that bedtime back to a school friendly schedule.  It’s very difficult to reenter school in a state of exhaustion. 

Kids need a consistent bedtime and plenty of sleep to feel refreshed and energized when school starts.  Consider starting the transition at least two weeks before school starts.  Bump up the bedtime by 10-15 minutes every three nights until you reach the desired bedtime.  

Practice getting out the door early:

Is there anything more stressful than the morning rush when kids are dragging their heels and eating breakfast at the slowest possible pace?  Don’t answer that. 

It’s very difficult to make an instant transition between lazy mornings lounging around in pajamas and the fast-paced mornings required to get to school before the bell rings.  Plan some early morning adventures (even if it’s just to the park or the grocery store) during the last two weeks of summer to get the kids used to getting up and out.

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Plan meals:

Those first few weeks of school are busy and can be anxiety-producing for some kids.  Relieve some added stress by planning your meals in advance for a few weeks.  Ask the kids for input about the meals, including what they might want for breakfast, and put a schedule on the fridge.  A little planning and structure goes a long way toward relieving some of those back-to-school jitters, for the whole family.

Find shortcuts:

I have one child that lives in her imagination and another that is constantly losing things.  We like to come up with shortcuts to make some tasks easier.  Shoes and socks bins for each child by the front door, for instance, shaves off five minutes of searching for a favorite pair of socks or a missing shoe.  Baskets for sunglasses and accessories help with last minute wardrobe choices.  Coat racks at child height make it easy to grab extra layers in a pinch.  Talk to your kids about what they need to get out the door and what might make it easier.  Sometimes small acts of organization can be a real time-saver, and decrease some of the stress that comes when school is back in session.

What has helped your family prepare for the return to school? Share in the comments! 

What do you think?

Tips for Readjusting to the School Schedule

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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3 comments

  1. We spend the week before school getting back into the routine. They go to bed at the school night need time they get up at school day time. We do showers like school year schedule eat at their school meal times and we continue to work in their work books and read daily as we do through out the summer.

  2. Rachael says:

    We have been using these items for weeks to prepare for the first day of school. No problem with fretting up and ready though. Had to get up early for daycare and mommy’s work. Today we were ready 45 minutes before we had to get out the door since school start last at 8:30 and I’m working a later schedule now.

  3. Phammom says:

    Good tips. I plan on prepping everything the night before as well.

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