Back to school, back to the routine

Take time to establish these four key back to school routines for a successful school year.

Kids getting on a school bus
With school starting, it’s time to get back into the swing of a consistent and predictable routine for your children.

It’s back to school time! For many families, summer means a break from the routines and structures that the school year brings. Bedtimes slip later and later and children are sleeping in. Baths might not happen every night, and some of the chores are just going undone as you and your children enjoy the last warm days. With school starting, it’s time to get back into the swing of a consistent and predictable routine for your children. Research shows that children with predictable routines at home have stronger social and emotional health. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following routines for school success.

1. Morning

Set up your mornings for success. Have your children lay out their clothes the night before, right down to their shoes and socks in order to limit the morning confusion. Children should review their assignment notebooks, or discuss the next day with you as they pack their backpack before bed. Do they have gym the next day? Need lunch money or a library book? Take time to find all those things and pack bags before lights out.

2. After school

Once children arrive back home, it’s helpful for them to have the same expectation daily. Perhaps that means snack then homework before going outside to do play. Or, maybe you let your children play for a little before settling in for their homework. Whatever works for your family is fine, but be consistent with your expectations of your children so they know what to expect. Have a quiet place for your children to do school work away from the distractions of siblings, television and other noise.

3. Bedtime

Tame the bedtime battles with predictable bedtimes and bedtime routines. Turn off the TV and all electronics two hours before lights out to allow children time to unwind. Incorporate baths or showers, a bedtime snack and a book (or two or three). Have a consistent routine – TV off, quiet play time, snack, bath, teeth brushing, books and lights out.

4. Chores and responsibilities

Have consistent expectations of how your children contribute to the family home. Perhaps they feed the dog, scoop kitty litter, water the plants, unload the dishwasher or take out the trash. Again, deciding who does what will vary by family. Even toddlers and preschoolers can contribute to the family by throwing away trash, unloading plastic wear and other safe items from the dishwasher and feeding the family pets. It can be tempting with school responsibilities to not expect much of your children, however, contributions to the home are important. In fact, research conducted at the University of Minnesota has found that one of the key predictors of a young adult’s success in their early 20s is that they participated in household chores when they were 3 or 4.

Take time to establish daily routines with your children. Involve children in creating and implementing these routines. As they follow them, point out each step. When a child is asking to go back to something else, say a second snack before bed, show them they already did that and it’s time to move on to the next step. Having these sorts of predictable routines helps structure children’s day, building a sense of predictability to their day. They know what will come next and can allot their time accordingly. This also gives you, as the parent, a framework for limits such as screen time or bedtime. With the school year upon us, take time today to establish routines for your children’s school, and life, success!

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