If your kids are heading back to school and you already are feeling like pulling out your hair, stop and take a breath and then make a plan. One of the best ways to get back to school on the right foot is to establish a routine for the whole family. Routines make kids feel more at ease because they know what is expected of them and when, and they make life easier for parents for the same reason. The best thing about a routine is that is can be flexible as needed, within reason.
Get everyone on the same page
First, every family member needs to know and abide by the routine. You can make this process go a little more smoothly by prioritizing after-school activities and planning ahead for transportation and carpooling. To keep everyone on track and know who needs to be where and when, create a family command center. Include a calendar to keep track of schedules and to help kids stick to the routine of chores, homework, and other tasks. You may include magnetic boards, chalkboards, dry erase boards, or cork boards to write to-do lists, appointments, project due dates, etc., and to clip papers from school such as permission slips, homework policies and procedures, and more. You also could include holders for files and papers, hooks for backpacks, and other storage solutions that fit your family’s organization needs.
If you have young children or if you are a visual person, consider color-coding the storage solutions and the family calendar so you can get an idea of the week’s schedule in a quick glance and determine whether there are any conflicts. Of course, having the storage solutions and command center will not be enough if you do not follow up with a routine. Ensure your family understands how to use the materials and how to fit them into the routine; for example, you may need to guide kids through walking into the house after school, hanging up their backpacks, getting to work on their homework, and then clipping it to their area of the command center for you to review before putting it into their folders for the next school day.
Routines simplify time management when families consistently follow them. For example, get your kids into the routine of coming home and immediately beginning their homework. You will help them have enough time for their homework assignments if you create a study zone for them that eliminates distractions and promotes focus. You also can coach them through using the family schedule and calendar to understand what they need to have completed and when, and you can help them break large tasks into chunks so they don’t feel overwhelmed by larger school projects or tasks.
You also can help your children manage their time by getting them into the routine of making their lunch for school the night before, laying out their clothes for the following day before they go to bed, and enjoying free time after chores, dog-walking, homework, etc. are complete. The more often they abide by the routine, the greater their time management skills will become. Carry over the routine to their bedtime by establishing a time for settling down and relaxing with a book or song, taking care of their teeth and bodies by brushing and bathing, and going to bed.
Plan ahead for lunches
You also need to incorporate planning ahead into your routine. Looking at school lunch menus and planning lunch packing days is key to staying on track when school starts. Consider purchasing school lunch items on the weekend and organizing them into bins that children can use in a self-serve manner to pack their lunches under your guidance. Consider putting main meal ingredients, such as those for sandwiches or wraps, into one container, cold snacks, such as string cheese or yogurt, into a container in the refrigerator, and regular snacks, such as single-serve portions of pretzels or popcorn, into another. Kids will enjoy having options for their lunch, and they will be able to pack their lunch the night before school when you plan ahead.
While back-to-school brings often brings stress and challenges for every family, you can help better manage returning to the classroom with routines that include family command centers, calendars, storage solutions, time management tricks, and self-serve lunch packing stations.