The holiday break may seem like a short time out of school for kids who have been working hard all fall semester, but we know that two weeks off is just enough time for kids to kick their academic routines to the curb. The days of going to bed late, sleeping in, spending time with family and loved ones with no homework are coming to an abrupt end once classes start again.
Getting kids back into their school routines can seem like a big challenge, but Parent Toolkit expert Michelle Icard and Tim Tinnesz, the Head of School at St. Timothy’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina, have five tips for helping to get your child back on track.
1. Restart the School Routine Early
One of the simplest ways to get back into the groove with school is to restart the routine early. Tim Tinnesz says that it’s important to reestablish old routines a few days before your child actually has to return to school.
“During the break, the routines of school are in the distant past. It's always best not to end the vacation at 10 o'clock the night before school starts. Give yourself some wiggle room before school starts, even if that means practicing.”
He also mentions that kids thrive from routines and they often seek them out. “Children are kind of programmed quickly to seek out and establish routines and habits. So, a week or two off for Christmas break what the child is doing is picking up new routines and habits, even though to an adult there's not much routine to it. The routines and habits of school are things of the distant past so it is important to reestablish some routines and habits before that child goes back to school.
Some of the ways that you can practice getting your child back into the swing are by putting out their clothes the night before, setting reminders on their phone, and by creating visual reminders for them.
By practicing these skills during the holiday, you can reinforce some good routines for when school restarts. If your kid has a hard time deciding what he or she wants to wear to school, carve out time after dinner to select what they want to wear. It is also helpful to utilize the technology your child has. If they are always on their phones but are forgetful, have them set reminders for an assignment or other activities that they might otherwise forget. For visual learners, design calendars and poster boards with to do lists and reminders so they can see what they need to complete.
2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Time off from daily routines can make it challenging for anyone to return to their regular schedule and that it is why it’s important to have empathy, says Michelle Icard.
“Having empathy is key. Offer a chance to push the reset button. Don’t talk about it as if it’s a negative thing. Have a tone of excitement! Don't set the tone that ’it's time to buckle down.’ Don't talk about it as if it's a negative thing. Talk about it as if this is a chance for you to have the kind of experience that you want to have because anything is possible.”
Just like adults, many kids are juggling a lot of information in their brains, so remember to be fair and empathetic to your child as he or she returns to business as usual.
3. Remember Your Kids’ Challenges
“You know your kid best. Think in advance about what are going to be the biggest hang-ups for them. Is it going to be that they're going to sleep through their alarm or are they going to have a book bag lost because they haven't thought about it over the break?
If your kid is a heavy sleeper, make sure the alarm is set the night before, whether you set it for them or they do it themselves. If your child has a hard time staying organized, go over what's in his or her backpack a few days ahead of time to make sure that they have pencils, paper and know where their backpack is on the morning they return to school.
Icard says kids want to know that their parents want them to do well and support them, and that’s why it’s important for you to know and understand how children receive support from you.
“Parents tend to harp on what their worries are, but no one wants to go into a new term with that burden on their shoulders, so try to give them a fresh start,” says Icard.
4. Trust the Teachers
While getting your kids back into the swing of things requires preparation before they return to school, remember that their teachers are also there to help them.
“Teachers have toolkits and bags of tricks with years of experience with dozens or even hundreds of children,” says Tinnesz. Remember that partnering with teachers creates a support system for everyone. “Teachers are our partners in this process with great sets of skills that help children during these transitions.”
Parents often forget how tenacious their children are. Yes, some kids are more reluctant to get out of the car on the first day back to school or may even cry, but once the kid enters the classroom they will get back into the swing, especially if there is a qualified adult anticipating their arrival.
“Children are remarkably resilient and far more resilient than most of us adults. It's important for us to remember how quick they are to bounce back and be happy again. Context is really important for parents to remember,” says Tinnesz.
5. Lastly, Remember That You’ve Got This
We know this last piece of advice isn’t a tip, but it is a reminder that it has only been a short holiday break. You and your child have made it halfway through the school year and you will both make it through the new term. In the words of Icard and Tinnesz, a little preparation during the break itself will go a long way toward ensuring that the transition back to school goes smoothly.