- For my southern friends, it’s already time to head back to school! It’s hard for me to process that as we still have 5 weeks of summer left in New York, but I have been chatting with many mom friends who are in the throes of schedules and supplies and the pressure of switching from one season to the next. And it got me thinking…
What is it about back-to-school season that is such a challenge? I understand that preparing for the details of school, purchasing supplies, and creating new schedules are all challenges, but there is something more to it. There is extra preparation time needed, and the impact on the family is greater than you’d expect and I have an idea why.
So my dear mama of school-aged children, I want this year’s back-to-school to be much smoother for you and I’ve provided the steps you can take to help ensure that.
What is it about this kind of shift that creates such a challenge? In a word: transition. When you are shifting from one thing to another, there are many factors to consider. But something we rarely prepare for, and even rarely build into our plans and schedule, is the transition part.
What does transition require? In a nutshell, extra time. Extra time is needed for three aspects to properly navigate a transition – planning, practicing, and impact.
NOTE: This concept is universal for any transition, so I will likely bring this up again during different seasonal shifts and for different life events. But for now, let’s look at it within the context of the back-to-school shift.
This is the one you may naturally consider the most.
You’ll need to set aside extra time in your day-to-day schedule to gather the supplies you need and create new schedules Make sure to include all members of the family and cross-reference them. This is the “putting it all together” phase where you review supply lists, classes, and schedules and you figure out what you need to be doing to prepare as well as how it will all work when the new schedules begin.
You schedule back-to-school clothes and supplies shopping, and pull together what everyone needs. This is key to being proactive and prepared. You may need to have input from family members, so you’ll need time to discuss and plan with them as well.
When you change schedules, you need to get used to what’s expected of you. New bedtimes? More time needed to get ready in the morning? More packing necessary?
Not only will it help to build in time once the schedule shifts, but also set up time before. This is the time for run-throughs. How long does it take to get ready? To drive to school? To pack each day? You’ll still need to support this new schedule once school has begun.
Does this transition cause stress for anyone? Nerves going into a new grade? Special teachers? More requirements or demands? This is not just for the kids. What about Mom and Dad?
When there is a big shift, there is a great deal of emotion happening and time is needed to handle that.
Everyone is dealing with the emotions of the shift and the best way to ensure its smooth is to anticipate this need. What does this mean in terms of specific planning? It means building in extra time – BUFFER time – for these things, specifically for planning.
Here are 3 Tips to help you create buffers in your schedule:
What could this involve? Making lists, going on shopping runs, reviewing schedules, having a family meeting, or multiple meetings with each child, creating calendars.
Tip: Start with the day school starts and back track from there. Build in time for reviewing the school letters, list-making, shopping, packing, discussing, and setting up a schedule. You may be able to be more efficient with this depending upon the ages of your children, size of your family, and input necessary. (Want help planning all these things for the week? This blog post offers advice and a worksheet to help you.)
What could this involve? Sleep and wake times, packing bags, habits and how to process school paperwork, actual practice of schedules once school begins, and marking family calendars.
Tip: BEFORE back-to-school, begin to shift the sleep and wake times a minimum of one week in advance of school. Start to build in more structure to your summer schedule and get everyone used to the pattern. Even if you have children wake up and then play freely, it will still help them with the new transition.
AFTER school begins, build in extra time after school and in the evenings for the first week or so to allow them extra rest and down-time. This is important for you as well.
What could this involve? Anxiety, emotions, and energy dips.
Tip: Acknowledge what’s going on. Who’s nervous? Who is making a bigger jump? What are the concerns? Is it a longer day? Is this new for the family?
BEFORE school begins, schedule time to discuss this and reassure your children. This could be while you have family meetings for schedules, though some extra one-on-one time is always beneficial.
AFTER school begins, create time to process and encourage self-care. For kids, it’s important to discuss ahead of time, and build in that extra time to relax after school and get extra sleep at times.
For Moms and Dads, do your best not to schedule work events or other social events the first week or so of school. You need recovery time once the kids are in school. (Want some ideas on wants to re-energize and care for yourself? Use my Self-Care Worksheet and create your own joy list!)
Allow time for all of you to manage what’s going on and recharge from the new energy draws that happen in new settings and schedules. Self-care of all kinds is encouraged, but the trifecta of good meals, good conversation, and good sleep will do wonders.
Good luck and happy learning!