While the outside temperatures may still be blistering hot, the arrival of August means that it won’t be long before the school bells are ringing. In fact, as a former school administrator, I can assure you that teachers and administrators are already hard at work preparing classrooms, schedules, and buildings in anticipation of the first day of school.
I’ve discussed some tips for successful school year in another post. You can check out those recommendations here.
As parents, we also have things to do to get our kids ready for a successful new school year.
Summer frequently means that kids have had a more flexible schedule with regards to bedtimes, when to get up, and activities throughout the day. And this is great – everyone needs time to relax and regroup. But in order to be ready for the first day of school, it’s important to start working our way back into a school routine now.
So what can you do to help your child be at his or her best from the first day of classes?
Bedtime Routines are Critical
One of the most important things you can do to help your child be successful in school is to be sure that they are getting enough sleep. I’ll admit that this can be tough – especially at this time of year when it may still be light outside when your child needs to go to bed.
I know that it can be tough to tell a child who has been playing till dark all summer that they now have to be in bed before it’s completely dark outside. I even remember when I was younger and my mom would hold firm to that bedtime. I didn’t like it and I know I complained (probably loudly!) about how “it wasn’t fair” that I had to go to bed when everyone else (in my mind) was still outside playing.
But here’s the thing folks – no one said that being a parent was always going to be easy. Research shows – and teachers will confirm – that children who are tired do not learn well. It’s up to you as the adult to make your child do what you know is in their best interest. And sometimes this means listening to them whine and gripe because you know that they need adequate sleep if they’re going to be able to learn in class the next day. Trust me, your child’s teacher is going to thank you if you send them to school well-rested.
Start by slowly moving your child’s bedtime back to where it needs to be a few weeks before school starts. Most kids (and adults, for that matter) don’t adjust well to drastic changes in sleep routines. Moving their bedtime incrementally will help them reset their sleep cycles so that their bodies are ready for a the school routine.
Get Them Up to Get Them Out the Door
However, getting your child to bed and to sleep is just one part of the equation. Sometimes the hardest part of getting to school on time is getting your child out of bed in the morning with enough time to get dressed and eat breakfast so that they’re not late for school.
So in addition to putting your child to bed, you’ve got to also start waking your child up in the morning. I know that it’s summer and those hours of peace and quiet are priceless (believe me, I’ve been there!). But I’ve also counseled lots of parents through the years who were having major trouble getting their child out of bed and to school on time. Starting this process now makes it easier – even if it’s not fun to wake up a grumpy child.
By the way, these suggestions are not just for the younger children. Middle and high school aged students also need adequate sleep and routines in order to be successful in school. It can be harder to get older kids to cooperate with routines (I know – major understatement!), but it’s still necessary and will make the transition back to a school year routine easier.
When your older child complains about having to get up in the morning, remind him or her that one of these days they will have a job. And having a job means having a boss. It’s not likely that their future boss is going to appreciate – or keep paying – an employee who can’t get to work on time. Whether their future is college or immediate entry into the world of work, you’re preparing them to be able to cope as young adults.
Why routines are necessary
So what’s the fuss about routines and adequate sleep anyway? Why not just let the kids go to bed when they want and wake them up the next morning?
Adequate rest has been linked to increased achievement. Kids who get enough sleep are more likely to preform better on academic tasks. They are sharper mentally and are better able to focus and pay attention.
Lost of kids are not getting the 7-8 hours of sleep each night that many experts recommend they need. Learning is hard work – and it’s even harder when you’re tired!
The Bottom Line
Now it’s time for me to tell you the hard truth, but you knew it was coming
Your child is probably going to resist your efforts. They won’t like it and they’ll whine. And you’ll be tempted to give in and let them have their way.
You’ll be told that “everyone else” gets to stay up later. “No one else” has to get up at a regular time in the mornings. “Everyone else” is still playing or watching TV while you – the meanest mom in the world – forces your child to go to bed and then get up.
One of two things is going on here:
- Either all of their friends ARE getting to stay up late and you really are a mean mom (which is code for the best kind of mom!), or
- You’re doing the same thing that the other (good) moms are doing.
The cold hard reality is that YOU are the mom – their only mom. And being a mom means having the responsibility and the gumption to do the right thing for your child, even when your child doesn’t like or appreciate it.