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Routine Refresh: Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School

Updated: Mar 18

It’s somehow already that time! Summer went by so fast, and school is upon us again. The transition back to a structured schedule is difficult for the children and teens I often work with and for parents too! As families gear up for back-to-school every year, I’ve noticed some strategies for a successful and smooth shift back to school year mode.

young boy with glasses doing homework in a notebook

1. Refresh your morning routine

  • Starting as soon as possible, begin having your family wake up to alarm clocks—not phones!—in each in their individual rooms. Have them practice setting it for a few minutes earlier each morning to get closer to their schoolyear wake up time.

  • Think about what the “Go Time” will be this schoolyear, meaning what time the car will be leaving the driveway. Have your family practice orienting themselves to this time every day leading up to the first day of school.

  • Have each family member write up their proposed morning routine, parents included. Gather to “workshop” each person’s list, offering suggestions and ensuring each step works for the whole family. After the first week, do this again on Sunday night, making the necessary tweaks.

  • Parents, find something to look forward to and build into in your morning for this schoolyear. Perhaps enjoy a tea or coffee you love or a podcast in the car when the kids are dropped off. You deserve it! Let this be your dose of emotional fuel for the day.

2. Reinforce your evening routine

  • The best chance for a smooth morning comes from a smooth evening!

  • Help yourself and your family prioritize rest, as acclimating to the busy school schedule is exhausting. Help each family member select a bedtime that works for them.

  • When bedtime goals are established, work backwards from there to ensure enough time is allotted for the “have-to”s (necessary tasks) and the “want-to”s (leisure activities.)

  • Consider these items when creating your evening checklist:

    1. Take out and look at school portal and homework folder (every day, even if no homework!)

    2. Have a parent check school portal and homework folder and put everything back in backpack.

    3. Put backpack by the door or in the car.

    4. Make tomorrow’s lunch tonight and put a sticky note on the back door to remember it.

    5. Talk through tomorrow’s schedule step by step with a parent.

    6. Set alarm clock for wake up time.

    7. Put devices on charger in parents’ room at ______ time.

    8. Begin wind-down/relaxation at ______ time.

3. Re-establish rules about screens

  • Your family will likely have to shift their screentime use to fit the school schedule. Have a family meeting to re-establish rules for screens during the schoolyear. Talk about screentime, content rules and which apps are allowed/not allowed, online safety, etc.

  • If a break is required when your child gets home (they’ve earned it!), have this be a timed, screen-free break of 15 to 30 minutes. Set a timer for a break activity like going for a walk, working on a puzzle, drawing, or quiet time. When the timer is up, it’s time to get homework complete.

  • All homework is done before screen time! Screentime such as gaming or social media is a key part of your child’s social life and leisure time. But they should be used as a reward for AFTER all work for the day is complete.

  • Require all family members to put their devices on chargers by a certain time in parents’ room. Kiddos as young as kindergarteners can learn how to use an alarm clock as a wake-up tool.

A new schoolyear is a good time to refresh any rules or habits you want to change or implement with your family. Schedule regular family meetings to talk about what is going well or what needs to change for things to run smoother. Ask each family member about how they feel it is going with warm curiosity. Hear your child out as they share their ideas and suggestions and be open to receiving feedback.

If backup, a neutral moderator, or someone to brainstorm with is needed, therapists here at The Conative Group are ready to help you develop a back-to-school plan that works for the whole family.


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