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5 Ways to Make the Back to School Transition Easy
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Back to school means back to a routine. That shouldn’t be code for ‘back to chaos’. Take the time now, while things are still a bit laid back, to clearly define what you need from the kids as they head back to school. Check out these 5 steps to guide your way.

Clearly define:

Mornings
Work with your kids to write down the order of the morning routine:

  • What needs to happen (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, leave house)
  • What time does each thing happen

Once this is written down (use pictures for little kids), your child can now tell you what needs to happen in the morning without having to read your mind. Rather than bossing your kids around, you can ask, ‘What needs to happen now? What’s next on your list?’

Schedule
Put your children’s schedule on a calendar so that they can see the time they have for fun, scheduled activities, homework and chores. When it is written down, it is concrete and easier to understand. This gets rid of the ‘There’s not enough time’ panic.

Sleep
Your kids also need enough time for sleep. If they wake up at 6:30 or 7 am, they need to be getting to sleep (not just starting bedtime routine) ten to twelve hours prior to that depending on their age. Check sleep needs here.

Responsibility
Kids need to know that they have a purpose and responsibility in the family. Maybe this is the year that they pack their own lunch for school. Will that happen the night before or will it be added to the morning routine? If they aren’t ready to make lunch, they can certainly clean out their lunch boxes and pack their own back packs.

Take time this month to clearly define your child’s chores, and then to teach the chore by doing it with the child and then allowing the child to do it more independently. Be sure to explain at what time and what day the chores need to happen and hold your child accountable for this. This teaches them that you mean what you say.

Expectations
If you don’t know what you expect, how can your kids? Take some time to clearly define what you want, then you can let them in on the secret and the family unit will run more smoothly.

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to chaos. Have a plan, make sure everyone knows it, and follow through for a seamless transition back to school.

Image of back to school from Shutterstock.

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching, podcasts, and video courses to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit www.parentingpower.ca to ask your own parenting questions.
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Sara Dimerman
July 21, 2014
Sara Dimerman
Would You Welcome the 1970's Back?
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For some kids, summer break means the beginning of overnight camp and boarding the camp-bound bus—some for the entire summer.

For many other students, summer means day camp, and day camp for most kids means sticking to a schedule—getting up at a specific time (sometimes even earlier than for school), making sure to meet the bus at a specific location and going to bed early enough to be alert and ready to do it all again the following morning.

A disciplined schedule such as the above is exactly what the blogger 4boysmother is recommending against in her blog post on May 29, 2014—where she offered ten ways she plans on giving her kids a ‘1970’s-style summer’. This, she said, includes letting the kids watch plenty of TV, letting them eat whatever they want, having them put on a talent show and making them play outside all day.

I was asked by a national radio station to comment on this blog and to respond to the question, ‘Does a 1970’s summer work in 2014?’ My response, in part, was ‘It might….if you can get your kids away from their electronics, out of their bedrooms and outside.’ Left to their own devices, as the blogger suggests, my guess is that most of our children would rarely see the light of day during the summer months.

One way of ensuring that your children put away their electronics is to establish family rules around screen time. For example, a rule such as ‘no devices or screens between noon and five’ might be hard at first, but will encourage your family members to find other ways to entertain themselves and each other. Or how about asking each child to think of a creative way to enjoy time outdoors on a specific day each week and then trying his or her idea out with siblings or neighbours? Then, help them create a book of their ideas that can be added to each summer.

The other part of my response was in regards to the working mom in 2014 compared to the mom of the 1970’s.  Over forty years ago, most moms were stay-at-home. During the summer months, parents therefore could keep their kids at home and hang out with their kids—and probably other families—outside. Nowadays, finding a program to keep one’s kids busy and safe is not so much choice, but necessity. Although the blogger writes that it’s ok that the kids spend some unsupervised time alone, I think that this comment is, unlike the humorous way in which this blog is written, not very funny. Until one’s children are old enough to be left alone at home (and even then, most parents realize that leaving their teen alone all day is not the best option and that left to their own devices, they will likely sleep until 2 pm and stay up all night as a result), parents need to plan summer schedules in advance.

However, if your children are resisting being programmed all summer and you agree that it’s important to give them some down time to catch up on their sleep, stay up later with friends or just watch TV, but you still have to work outside the house, here are a couple of tips:

  • Create a co-operative of sorts. Find out which of your children’s friend’s moms or dads are stay-at-home, home for the summer, or taking a staycation from work and then create a schedule where each of you takes on the responsibility of a few kids for a week at a time. This way, the kids entertain one another while the parent supervises and your child doesn’t feel that his or her entire summer schedule is as rigid as during the school year.
  • If you need to leave the house early to get to work, and your children are younger and can’t be left alone but prefer not leave the house early with you, consider this:  hire a babysitter or ask a family member to arrive at your house before you leave a couple days each week or on a daily basis over a week or two. This way, instead of having to leave the house to go to a program every morning when you leave, your children can sleep in, awake at a more leisurely pace, and then stay in their pyjamas, if they wish, watching television or hanging out with the caregiver until you get home. 
  • If your child is a little bit older, perhaps he or she would like to help out at your office. If you’re self employed, maybe you can find ways to help your child feel responsible and productive. If you’re working for someone else, ask your employer if there are any odd jobs that need doing. If your child can make a little pocket money, even better. In addition, children love seeing where their parents work.
  • Consider whether there’s any chance of working a four day week during the summer months or shortening your day. This way your children may not have to be in the care of others for too long each day or you can all look forward to one day extra day together.

If you can, use the summer months as an opportunity for your children (and you) to take a break, to ‘chillax’ and to rejuvenate after a long school year of early mornings, homework and scheduled extra-curriculars. Whether you go away on a family vacation where you can re-connect, or stay closer to home to explore your own city as if you were tourists, the warm summer months are a great opportunity to relax your schedules and de-stress.

Image of kids outside from Shutterstock.

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of four books: Am I a Normal Parent?; How to Influence Your Kids for Good; How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again; and Why Married Couples Don't Have Sex...at Least Not with Each Other. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting helpmesara.com. Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.
Comments | Tagged under summer, parenting, child care
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