As the more unstructured days of summer slip away, we all look for new routines in preparation for back-to-school time. While families that have children attending year-round preschool, there may not be a huge shift in schedules needed, maybe just buttoning up the morning routines so parents can arrive at work on time with the added fall routines of jackets etc. For older children that have been having care-free summer routines and not waking up as early and staying up late, there could be a few hour shift in their routines. Parents can start some time management tactics to make their life and their children’s less stressful in the coming weeks. Here are a few ideas to start:
1. Talk to your children about sunrise and sunsets.
Don’t take for granted that they understand this because they have seen the sun and the moon. Talk about how that affects their day in each season in general terms that they can understand such as long summer days when they play outside for hours before it gets dark versus the wintertime when it is often already dark outside when they eat dinner. Explain that fall and springtime are transition times for this to happen. For children who have the concept of time, look up the times for sunset and sunrise for the weeks ahead and talk about what it means in their daily lives. Things like dinnertime, bath time, bedtime and wake up times are all key markers in children’s days.
It can be fun to make a visual schedule with magnets for the fridge with the children. They can write words, draw pictures, or snap and print a photo of waking up, brushing teeth, breakfast, car ride to school, and the reverse in the evening. Parents can then either have a picture of sun, moon, or an analog or digital clock time that parents need these things to happen. Children being able to put a smiley face or a big green check mark next to them on the fridge will reinforce the expectation and encourage compliance.
2. Re-evaluate ways your child can help.
Back-to-school time management is stressful for many parents because they are trying to do everything for their children. Consider the transition back to school a time to re-evaluate ways your child can gain some independence and feel proud of themselves while taking the load off you. In my house, choosing outfits used to be a stressful time each morning. Once I allowed my children to choose their outfits for the entire week on Sunday, the mornings were much less stressful and they were proud of themselves. Take an inventory of everything you are doing and see if your child could do it instead. Packing lunches is another example. Nobody wants a sandwich on Thursday that was made on Monday but packing baggies of carrots or cookies for the week is a good practice and can even encourage math skills and healthy choices conversations when you do it together on the leisure of the weekend right after grocery shopping.
Chore charts should be seen as rewarding not punishing and I highly encourage them. The key is to start with allowing children to choose the reward for completing the tasks of the week. Set family style rewards like popcorn, pizza, and movie night or a zoo trip or outing to the local creamery for ice cream. Including the day and time of day the chore should be completed will help children manage their time which only benefits your time management goals. Think “bring empty trashcans up the driveway on Wednesday after school.”
3. Acknowledge what is realistic
My final advice would be to acknowledge what is realistic. If your children or you are going to spend time on social media for example, plan it in your schedule. Yes, reading together at bedtime is ideal but if that isn’t going to happen in your family, shoot for the next best thing. Maybe you call that time “coach surfing” on your daily schedule and plan in 15 minutes that you all indulge yourselves in Tik Tok or video games on your phone but with a committed schedule, you aren’t allowing yourselves to go down a social media rabbit hole.
As the Chief of Operations for Celebree Schools and a mom of five, I understand time management. My best advice is to see how each person can contribute and have the whole family agree on what the schedules are. Use the schedule as the tool and you can avoid individual nagging. For instance, if your second grader is avoiding homework time, you can say “our family schedule says 6-6:45pm is homework time” versus “you aren’t doing your homework.” Don’t forget that back to school time and the change of seasons is stressful for children too. The most important thing you can do is set expectations ahead of time and see this as an opportunity for children to gain independence and feel in control-routines makes us all feel comfortable so take time to chart those routines as a family.
By Allison Tsomos, COO of Celebree School