The back-to-school transition can be tough on kids, especially after the year we’ve had. Whether your kids can’t wait to get back to full-time, in-person school or if they prefer to school at home, here are suggestions to help your family build healthy habits for a positive new school year.
Practice and Motivate
Consistently practicing good habits helps kids build willpower to successfully tackle challenges they’ll encounter. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, dozens of studies show that self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than intellectual talent. Duhigg reports the most successful habits include a written plan followed by specific routines.
- Set small, manageable goals using a planner and celebrate wins with rewards. “Anything you can do to help your children practice independence, even chores, will help them gain the confidence they need for school,” says Coreen Jacobson, English teacher at Mann Middle School in San Diego’s College Area.
- Daily reading is crucial. “Let children choose to read anything they want,” says Jacobson. “Comic books and graphic novels are especially accessible for a child who hasn’t been reading regularly.”
- Surprise kids with school supplies they’ll love. “My kids have loved the extra time at home and I’m nervous they won’t be thrilled to return to full-time schooling,” says Anne Malinoski of Santee. To generate excitement, she’s planning to surprise her boys with brand new lunchboxes and backpacks that suit their interests. “I know they’ll be excited to put these new items to use,” she says, “which will help us get out the door with positive attitudes those first few weeks!”
Use Sunday Wisely
- Bag snacks for the week to save time on busy days. Completing this task in advance also provides a heads up if lunchbox staples need to be restocked, preventing last-minute trips to the store.
- Use a hanging closet organizer with a compartment for each day to put together school outfits for the week. You'll avoid arguments, questions and last-minute decisions about what to wear each morning.
- Create a staging area by the door with hooks for backpacks and a rack below for shoes. Have kids put homework and permission slips into backpacks the night before.
The Night Before
- Make lunches and fill water bottles the night before each school day.
- Set the table for breakfast after washing dinner dishes. You’re already in the kitchen; getting it all done at once makes sense.
In the Morning
- Keep breakfast simple with cereal and a choice of toast, yogurt or fruit. Have kids sit down and eat breakfast upon getting up. This avoids grab-and-go breakfasts that research shows can lead to obesity. It also helps avoid spills on school clothes that could cause a meltdown.
Andrea Huber, local mom of two, shares her breakfast trick: “When I bake muffins, I always make a double batch and freeze the extras. That way, the kids can just take one out and warm it in the microwave.” If you have a picky eater who wants a hot breakfast, consider toaster waffles or make-ahead egg muffins.
- Use an alarm clock, perhaps with a favorite character or theme. We surprised our son with a Yoda alarm clock as he entered kindergarten. He was excited by the gift which also increased buy-in. I was amazed when he bounded into the dining room each morning when the alarm sounded, ready to start his day.
- Most moms agree with Karen McKimmy’s family rule: No electronics before school—they are way too distracting.
- With older children, get creative. To get her sons out of bed in the morning, Donna Kiernan turns on music in their rooms. “I make it nice and loud and then sing—and dance, if necessary—substituting words with phrases about waking up.” The groans turn into laughter and they start preparing for school.
No two families are exactly alike. Figure out what works for your family and put a system in place. Planning ahead helps start the day in a more positive, less frazzled way.
Cherie Gough is a freelance writer who appreciates practical solutions that make time for simple pleasures with her two children.
Need ideas about getting organized for school? Read our article from the August issue of San Diego Family Magazine: www.sandiegofamily.com/resources/education-directory/get-organized-for-school.
Still short on time? Get more breakfast ideas at www.sandiegofamily.com/things-to-do/dining-and-recipes/grab-and-go-breakfasts-for-hurried-school-mornings.