Whether it’s summer, fall break, Christmas, or spring break, getting back into the school routine is never easy. Sometimes even a long weekend or a couple of sick days can throw off both your daily routine and your mental attitude toward it. And of course if you’re a mom responsible for keeping the rest of your family on a schedule, you don’t have much time to listen to your own inner complainer because you have to give everyone else a pep talk.
Here are 8 creative ways to readjust after a break from school (and work):
#1 Shock your sleep schedule – it’s typically advised that you take a week or two at the end of a long break to get back into your normal sleep schedule. While this is ideal, it can cut into the length of time you have to slack off from said schedule. Another approach that can work well with younger children is to plan a long outdoor activity near the end of the break, something that will wear your kids out. We find taking our kids to run around in the waves at the ocean works well, as does swimming in a lake, taking a hike or going to a local park to kick a soccer ball around, chase a kite and play on the playground. Run them hard, feed them well, then put them to sleep at their target bedtime or close to it, and wake them up on the new schedule. Continue with the target bedtime and wake time until school starts up again.
#2 Plan a special event – give your kids and the whole family something to look forward to a few days or a week after school has resumed. If you just enjoyed a long weekend, plan a special dinner for Thur night. This year as the end of summer break was approaching, we decided to plan our next family camping trip for Sept instead of Oct. My boys know that after the first 9 days of school they get to go camping.
#3 Add a new element of fun into your routine – find a practical way to add a new element of fun to your daily routine. In the summer an easy way to do this is to let your kids pick a few of their school supplies. Anticipating enjoying using them provides a distraction from any anxiety about going back to school. If the weather changes over fall break or Christmas break, buying some cold weather gear your kids like will give them something to look forward to. Apply this to yourself too – buy a new mug or box of tea, or make a ritual out of pulling out your favorite sweaters and throw blankets when the weather changes.
#4 Invite help solving problems – if your kids express concerns about going back to school after a break, don’t be too quick to dismiss their feelings or to solve the problem. Listen for a concern that is actionable and then guide them toward a solution that will help them feel better. Even better – let them help you solve one of your problems. This is one of my favorite strategies now that my boys are a bit older (the oldest are 7 and 5) and it helps when I don’t want to get out of bed either.
For more on this strategy, read how to get out the door with kids.
#5 Establish clear consequences – this is necessary with some temperaments. When you get strong resistance to the new (old) routine, it is mentally draining to decide how to deal with it on the spot. Setting up rules and expectations about what will happen if your kids do not do their part to get ready for school in evening or the morning is difficult but worth the effort. Once you decide what they are it can be very effective to state them positively rather than negatively. For example I am going to tell my boys, “Boys who go to school get to go camping.” That sounds much more pleasant than “If you don’t go to school you might stay home with grandma.”
#6 Make observations instead of giving directions – ok, I love this one so much I decided to make it its own number. Making observations encourages your kids to think, it gives them a chance to problem solve, to connect the dots, to feel ownership of ideas and decisions. Here are some examples of things you might say to your kids:
Wow, if we start another game it’s going to be hard to wake up in the morning.
It’s 8:00. (they know bedtime is 8:00)
Your homework is on the table.
You have a field trip today.
You have a test tomorrow.
You’re still in your pajamas.
Resist the urge to tell your kids what to do, and instead make observations that will let them come to the conclusion of the action they need to take.
#7 Look at the big picture – count down the days to the end of the break on a wall calendar, talk about the fun memories you made recently, pull up photos and talk about your last family activity, talk about why school is important and how much time there is until the next break. Talking through these things gives your children a sense of the bigger picture and of the rhythms of life.
#8 Add humor and sympathy – when you’ve done the rest of these tips, it’s fun to mix it up and add some humor. When one of my boys says he’s not going to get out of bed, I might respond in half-seriousness with, “Me neither!” Then my boys will look at me quizzically because I am out of bed, I’m in their room, and I’ll follow it up with, “Maybe I’ll go back to bed, what will happen if I do that?”
Then they’ll laugh and say something about what I need to do and why I can’t go back to bed. Sometimes my stronger-willed son will forget that he was not going to get out of bed, other days I do have to fall back on consequences for lack of cooperation, but dialogues like this one lighten the mood and validate their feelings.
This post is part of Motivational Monday at AFreshStartonaBudget.com!