It’s the last week of August. Summer vacation and summer routines end. The school year routine begins. Even if the kids have been in daycare or camps or recreation programs, chances are the schedule during the summer months was a little — or a lot — different from the school year. Parents can take advantage of the new-ness of the new school year by talking to their kids about how important it is to get into the swing of things now — this week — so that everyone in the family will be ready when the first day of school rolls around.

Make it a family challenge to reset routines so the excitement of the first day of school isn’t marred by nagging, scolding and rushing. If you can embrace this as an important and an even exciting “getting set for school” transition week, the kids are likely to get into the spirit of the thing.

It’s important that they — and you — do. Routines create stability and predictability for kids. Having a set bed time ensures that they go to school rested. Carrying out a daily wake up routine on their own fosters competence and independence. Having a routine time and place for managing homework conveys that you think education is important. Sticking with the routines until they become habits reduces stress around morning and evening family time for everyone.

5 Resets for school success:

  1. Change bed times. If yours is the kind of family that relaxes the bed time schedule during the summer, the time to get back to school night routines is now. The kids won’t automatically adapt the night before school begins. Start the school year bed time this week so by the time the first day of school comes, the kids will be used to it.
  2. Change the wake up routine too: If your summer schedule has also allowed for sleeping later than during the school year and perhaps a more relaxed approach to breakfast, make that shift now too. Teach your kids to set an alarm clock and to get dressed without prompting from you. Insist that they have a healthy breakfast to start the day. It matters. Kids who go to school hungry aren’t at their best for paying attention in school.
  3. Make a homework routine possible: It’s been proven: Kids who have a specified time and place for homework do better than those who don’t. Provide the support your kids need to get into a homework routine. Set up a place and supplies so you don’t have to spend time every day negotiating and deciding where and when they should do homework or looking for needed supplies. 

    Set up a homework area: Involve the kids is deciding where they will be doing their homework and encourage them to take ownership of it by helping to arrange it. The area doesn’t have to be fancy, just consistent. It can be the kitchen table or a desk or a table set up in the family room or the kids’ bedrooms. If you are using the kitchen or dining room, designate a shelf or milk crate as the place for school supplies and homework in progress. Do include a big calendar in order to keep track of long-term projects. 

    Locate the school supplies they’ll need: Chances are you have most of what they need scattered around your apartment or house. You don’t have to go out and buy all new stuff. Don’t get seduced by all those ads that pressure us to buy, buy, buy every little office supply before September first. Wait until you find out from the teachers what they really want the kids to have in their backpacks and fill in as needed.

  4. Start the homework routine now: Your kids will adjust to the discipline of doing homework if they have a running start into the new routine. Set aside the same time each day for doing some concentrated “study” time. Include tasks like uninterrupted silent reading for older kids or copying their name for little ones. Time on computers doesn’t count. The kids need practice managing sustained attention on a task that doesn’t immediately reward them with beeps and colorful icons.
  5. Make New School Year Resolutions: The first day of school often holds more importance for kids than January 1. The new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new kids to get to know and new subject matter challenges. It’s a great time to make some new resolutions.
  6. Ask each of your kids to come up with a goal for the new school year. If their suggestions seem too ambitious, carefully talk about how to revise them to something that is more likely to be successful. Be sure to set one of your own too. Think about how you can be more supportive of the kids’ success. Write the resolutions down and post them where everyone can see them as positive reminders.

    Make it part of your weekly routine to check in about how everyone (including you) is doing in carrying out those promises. As the school year gets rolling, it may become clear that a resolution made in August isn’t helpful or appropriate to what is going on in school. That’s okay. Such resolutions should be part of an ongoing conversation, not an issue of success or failure.

Think about the transition to the new school year as the opportunity not a problem. There’s something about “fresh starts” that appeals to most of us. How many times have you told yourself that you’ll start some new routine on Monday? Or when you get back from vacation? Or on your birthday? The first day of school can be such a marker for a new beginning. Getting into the swing of school year routines now, especially if done with enthusiasm, can help set your kids up for school success this year.