It's finally here! After the last 6 months of varying degrees of quarantine, September is a time that some parents have eagerly awaited, and others have looked at with considerable trepidation. Whether your children will be returning to school full time, part time, or staying home this September, jumping back into education means jumping back into a routine that has likely been out the window for the last half-year.
We know things are constantly changing, and they'll likely change ten more times before your little ones hop on the bus (or don't!) on September 8th. That's why we've compiled 8 tips to get you and your family back into routine, and all of them are tried and true things that YOU can do (and none of them will change before September 8th).
The sooner you start your routine, the better. We know many parents have already started thinking about this transition back, but if you've been putting it off, the time is now to rein in the little ones and start the structure. There's no golden number for how many days of routine practice kids need before returning to school, because every family is different, but 1-2 weeks will likely work (depending on how out of routine your little ones are!).
Get Some Exercise
Lets be honest, our kids are missing sports BIG TIME, and so are we! Even though there's been some return, it's not at the level we're used to, and that means our kids have gone from hours of physical activity every day to an hour of ice time a few times each week. If your family hasn't quite gotten back on the fitness bandwagon, consider a family walk, hike or jog in the evenings (instead of a movie or TV show). Maybe you head over to the park to play kids versus adults soccer, or just walk the dog around the neighbourhood, but either way research shows that even 30 minutes of light to moderate activity can make bedtime a breeze.
Curb The All-Day Graze
Who isn't guilty of this? The kids roll out of bed in the morning, aren't hungry right away, but 20 minutes later you find them with their head in the pantry looking for a snack, and you'll find them there every half hour for the rest of the day. Forget actual mealtime, your kiddos have become cattle - happily grazing! This is a hard one to break, but settling kids back into mealtime routine can help deal with the impending hanger once they can't snack all day long. This might mean planning meals the night before, packing your kids an at-home lunch, or taking things one step further and have a family meal planning party where you plan, prep, and cook together to get everyone excited for the week's meals.
The number one cause of grazing? Boredom! If meal planning and scheduling isn't cutting it, redirect kids attention when they're on the hunt for food. Pick chores, games, fun outdoor activities or creative indoor ones to do for a period of time between the next meal (at least it gets them thinking about something other than food!).
Get Ready For Tomorrow
This goes with planning and prepping lunch to get them excited for the next day. Lay out clothing, set their alarms (or yours!), and set the intention for the next day. Make this a habit in the week or two before school starts to reduce the morning fights and wrestling your kids into multiple layers now that the weather is cooling down.
Set A Bedtime (And Wake Up Time!)
This is HARD! For kids that have been sleeping and rising off schedule for the last 6 months, this will be among the hardest things about their new(old) routine. If you've got more than a week to work with, try adjusting by half an hour per week until you get to your desired wake up time. If you don't have the gift of time, then go cold-turkey for the remaining time you have left and prepare for a bumpy few days.
Be firm about your sleep and wake times - set an alarm on either end! Give yourself time for the bedtime routine, maybe an extra book or two, and really focus on the (screen free) wind-down time before bed. When your kiddo is finally in bed, do your best to keep them there. That means none of the "one more shows" or "one more snacks" that have become habits for some kiddos.
Prepare for the New Normal
There is a TON of uncertainty right now about what school is going to look like, and we know that could change again at any moment, but there are a few things that we do know will definitely be a part of our new routine: masks and hand washing.
Practice is one of the best ways you can prepare your kids for prolonged periods of mask-wearing. That might mean the entire family dons their mask during a TV show or movie at home, or all screen time has to be done while wearing a mask, or simply ensuring kids are wearing their masks with you while out an about (if they haven't already been). Importantly, even if you're not pro-mask, if your kids see you wearing one they'll be more likely to don their without a fight - we've heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was routine. Cut yourself and your family some slack during this adjustment period, even after school starts! It's simple, self explanatory advice, but I know more than one parent that needs to hear this.
Go With The Flow
There are a lot of anxious parents, teachers and administrators out there right now, and every single one of them wants what is best for our kids. I've spoken to people on every end of this perspective, and what I can say for certain is that everyone is anxious, everyone is frustrated, and EVERYONE wants answers. Getting kids back to school is a logistical nightmare, and lets be honest, our education system does not have the contingencies in place, nor the infrastructure, to pull this off in 100% the safest possible way, and that is unlikely to change in the next week (but that might be okay after all).
When we reopened CONNECT, we shared a lot of the anxieties parents, teachers and administrators currently have:
How much cleaning is enough cleaning?
How am I supposed to wear a mask all day?
How can we possibly maintain social distancing?
How can we get ANYTHING done when we have to follow all these rules?
Are we keeping people safe enough?
Here's my opinion:
The risks associated with people NOT getting care through CONNECT are, for the most part, GREATER than the risk of COVID-19 with the safety measures we put in place.
Similarly, the risks associated with kids NOT returning to school are, for the most part, GREATER than the risk of COVID-19 with the safety measures put in place by the school boards.
That doesn't mean it's perfect, we know it's not, and there are people who are still going to be uncomfortable with the level of risk involved because of their health, or the health of their children or loved ones, and those people deserve our respect and support, but so do our teachers and administrators. So my last point for getting back into routine is to go with the flow, control the things you can control (like sleep, meals, etc), and expect EVERYTHING else to change. It's hard, but I promise you'll feel better if you loosen up the reins.
We hope you found some of these tips helpful! Comment below and let us know what your family is doing to get back into routine this September!