I have mixed reviews on the process of going Back To School. For nearly a decade I was a high school Social Studies teacher. When August came around each Summer I began to have nightmares - literally- about going back to my classroom. I protested responsibility by staying in my pajamas all day reading "fun books" (not texts) and then went out dancing on weeknights. I avoided going to stores, fearful that a "back to school" sale somewhere (Everywhere!?!) would remind me of the growing list of meetings, emails, lesson plans and other "to do's" piling up on the desk in my classroom that I've been avoiding for 5 weeks. Once September arrived anxiety was high and for me it continued that way until... well, spring break, honestly.
Now that I work year round as a mom and a sleep specialist I am saying "bring on the school bells people!!!" My girls are in part-time summer preschool, but summer has been draining; travel, house projects, visitors, potlucks, swimming lessons. Most of all there is nice weather, so that one is inclined to leave the home/office in the afternoon and enjoy the occasional trip to the woods, pool, that restaurant with an outdoor playground, or other sunny adventures. It feels like nothing is getting done except for the making of dirty laundry, dirty feet, dirty dishes and sweet memories. It's easy to become exhausted by all the fun.
Here's why going Back to School is so awesome:
Classrooms teach our little people to be decent humans. Thank you, teachers, for connecting a diverse group of kids together in a classroom where they must bump up against challenges, explore who they are, and get better at things. I could never do all of this in my home as well as you do it in the classroom.
Nights are getting longer. Praise the cosmos!! Bedtime becomes exponentially easier when the rays of the sun are not still shooting into your child's eyeballs at 7:30 pm.
Routine creates calm - and school provides a strong sense of routine.
Kids thrive on repetition (that book again?) and predictability, and even rules they may complain about. Consistency and boundaries provide security.
Parents wont want to read Angelina Ballerina 563 times in a row, but routines feel good to adults as well. You want each bedtime to be the same smooth sailing every night. And knowing that you can make a cup of coffee and take a shower before your kids wake up each morning, because they always wake at 7:15, is priceless.
Back to School limits messy things. Literally, school and work happen most the day so that splash pads, massive art projects, mud pies and "washing rocks" in the bathroom sink are not happening in your house all. the. time. This makes for time you can spend on long overdue projects or catching up on much needed sleep.
Thus: we sleep better. It may seem that I'm a Grinch about Summer, but I'm just a lover of well rested kids and happy families.
5 Healthy Back-to-School Habits
You can help ease the Back To School transition with these tips:
End screen time before dinner.
Establish an appropriate bedtime so that your kiddos are getting 12 hours of sleep at night.
In the first few weeks of your transition, you will want to start the bedtime routine a full hour before their new bedtime to assure that "lights out" happens right on time. Once habits are in place a 30-40 minute routine is ideal for school-aged kids (toddlers & infants 20min. is ideal).
NOTE: Overtired kids have a harder time with bedtime. When my kiddos are overtired or over stimulated they draw bedtime out dramatically: tantrums, repetitively whining "I'mmmmm nooooooot tiiiiiiiirred", always wanting one more book, floppy giggling (that can be perceived as cute early on) and other finely tuned stalling tactics.
Lots of light exposure, and an upbeat wakeup song and book in the morning (I like Sandra Boynton's Hey Wake Up!) quickly followed by some nourishment. Food helps our bodies wake up.
If your child doesn't normally take them, try not to allow naps in these first few weeks. An afternoon nap could push a child's bedtime back to 10pm, which then means they are missing vital, restorative, sleep at night. And this can quickly become a rough cycle to get out of.
Be gentle with yourself and your little ones. Know that if your kiddos seem impossible to get out of bed in the morning, and then get a second wind after almost falling asleep in their spaghetti at dinner time, that's normal. It takes the body some time (6 weeks for some children) to shift their schedules so that they are ready for bed earlier and alert in the morning when it's time to get up. It will happen with practice - rest assured! In the meantime, it's always a great reminder to use your words, "I know lots of things are changing and seem new this week. That can be really hard, you have a new teacher, a new classroom, new friends to go to know. What else? And, there are lots of other things that are staying the same; our routines, your cozy safe bed, and my love for you is not changing anytime soon!