Top Tips to Prepare for the Return to School (& Work)
As a mum of 3 and a parent coach who has supported so many working parents and caregivers, particularly during the past 18 months when families were presented with many challenges, I could see a noticeable rise in the number of families that were ready to take some much-needed time off over the summer to rest and recuperate. As the new school term is nearly upon us, with that comes organising ourselves and the children as we all adjust back into the routine and working schedules. With that in mind, I will share with you some of my top tips to prepare for the first week back, taking into account the morning and bedtime routines as well as managing your own expectations.
Returning to the school term routines
Children young and old like to know a plan (even though they won’t tell us that!). We all cope and manage better when there is a goal to work towards. For most it’s getting out the door, with lunches made and being on time. With the start of a new term approaching there’s a lot to be said for reviewing morning and bedtime routines about a week in advance, along with supporting the kids if they are feeling a little anxious. It’s the same for everyone, when supporting working parents via my online webinars I see them face many challenges when they are starting back with the usual routines. Flexibility is key, making a plan that involves the whole family, accepting that it’s not always going to work and that there will be those days that push you more than others.
Some thoughts to get you through those first few mornings
- Keep communication open with the kids – take them briefly through what the morning will look like a day or so beforehand, what the routine is, jobs that need to be done and by what time, let them know where they are going after school, who is picking them up etc.
- The more prepared you are, the more likely the morning will run smoothly. Expect that everyone will be slow to get started but like anything, once new habits are formed, it’s like we were never away!
- Some children can struggle with transitions, one of the biggest challenges I see for families is getting the children dressed after breakfast. To eliminate the morning delays encourage getting dressed as soon as they get up – often when the kids are settled they don’t want to return to the bedroom to get involved in another task. For the older kids, it’s making sure they have organised their uniforms & bags the night before (at times with your help!).
- To take the pressure off, allow yourself the extra time – when you are up, dressed and showered before the kids, the more likely you can be one step ahead over the course of the morning. I know it’s common sense but if you can avoid delays, this will help you along the way.
Preparing for sleep after a summer of late nights
As we know sleep is paramount for both children and adults, it can take up to a week or so for them to get back into their natural sleep patterns. It’s very natural for the kids to struggle on the night before the first morning back, for smaller children up to six, recommended time to be asleep is ideally 8pm – overtiredness plays a big part in difficulty settling and night time waking. For older children and adolescents, they will cope with the later nights but may struggle with the early school mornings.
Top tips to approach the back-to-school bedtime woes
Prepare the kids bedtime schedule in advance if you can with the following steps:
- Decrease bedtime by 15 minutes each night. Ages will vary here so for example, if they have been going to bed at 9.30pm or later each night during the last number of months, start to reduce the bedtime each night from 9.30pm to 9.15pm to 9pm to 8.45pm and so on. This will make it easier for them to fall asleep earlier when back to the usual school routine.
- If it’s a case that it’s too late to start this gradual transition, don’t worry, all children will be tired during those first few evenings after starting back to school.
- As all children’s emotions vary, many feel anxious the night before school is back. This too can be a contributing factor to sleep. If this is the case, consider the following: Acknowledge your child’s feelings – validation makes them feel appreciated and understood and listened to, for example, ‘I can see you’re feeling upset and worried and that’s ok too’.
- While you can’t control everything that goes on for your children, it’s important they know how effective focusing on the positive is. Positive affirmation cards can be a brilliant focus and help ease the anxiety that some children may experience.
Preparing for the return to work – top tips for saving time
- Look at when you’re at your best. If you are a morning person and the kids are in school, plan tasks that make the most of when you are most alert and productive.
- Factor in regular breaks, particularly if working from home. Currently working, parenting, and living at home can be intense as we all know!
- Make a list for daily versus weekly tasks and goals, this allows you to prioritise your workload.
- When planning deadlines for work, overestimate how long it will take you as opposed to underestimate, as unexpected obstacles may arise in your week. This will help you manage your time with less pressure.
Working onsite or from home while maintaining family life is a challenge for all families. With the return to school and transitioning to new routines, there will be an adjustment period. If there are positive changes that you can encourage in advance of the return to school and work, it will help things run smoothly and avoid arguments, pressure and at times behavioural issues.
Aoife Lee is a mum of 3 children, and accredited parent coach and Founder of Parent Support. She has been supporting families for the last 20 years and is an Award Winning Parenting Expert with regular appearances on Ireland AM and Today FM. Aoife offers 1:1 Support Sessions for Parents and works with many organisations giving corporate wellness parenting talks and workshops. Aoife recently launched 2 online parenting courses to help families overcome some of the challenges they may be facing: Positive Parenting and Managing Family Screen time & Device Use. Follow Aoife on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn for Parenting tips or if you would like to learn more.