The last weeks of summer are fast approaching, holidays have come and gone, and a whole new year is already underway. Transitioning back into the school routine can be a shock to the system after long lazy summer days and it’s easy to begin to feel stressed and anxious at the beginning of a new school year. However, there are things you can do at the beginning of the year to help your child have a positive, happy and successful 2021 school year.
There is no DNA that guarantees success, good organisation, or happiness. The potential for all of these things lies within each of our children, and what it looks like for each of them will be completely different. As adults who care for children we can support them to develop the skills they need to face the challenges that will come along the way.
Our lives, both adults and children’s, are based on the habits we develop. These repeated patterns of behaviour or thought become embedded like the operating system of our computer and control everything we do daily. Parents and other adults who care for children can help them have a successful year by supporting the children they care for develop good habits early, as these habits lay a strong foundation for how the rest of the year will unfold. There are a number of positive habits that can help children be successful both at school and in life.
Being organised and having routines provides children with consistency and comfort, helping them to feel secure, safe and reduce anxiety. In childhood they can develop routines and habits that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Being organised and following routines does not mean that there is no room for flexibility – life happens, and things sometimes change, this is ok and can be a great lesson for children in how to adapt and be flexible.
Some practical ways to set up routines and keep organised
- Draw up a family calendar with all the important dates on it – you can colour code it for each member of the family. Have it in a place that is easily accessible and where everyone can refer to it.
- Plan routines for the busiest times in the day e.g. mornings/ after school, as this way everyone will know what they are supposed to be doing.
- Have checklists – these will help children organise themselves, e.g. checklist for what they need to take to school each day, checklist for getting homework done.
- Make it a habit to get ready for the next day the night before – setting out clothes, making lunches, packing bags.
- Use containers to help children keep organised, if everything has its place it will be easier to keep clean and tidy.
- Plan to have at least one meal each day together as a family, it could be breakfast or dinner. This is a time to connect with each other, talk about plans for the day, or how the day went. Switch off the TV and phones and devices don’t get used – it’s family time.
- Have bedtime rituals – this way children will have activities they associate with getting sleepy and getting ready for bed e.g. bedtime stories, quiet music, mindfulness activities.
- Turn tasks/ chores into a game by challenging children to finish a before the alarm on a kitchen timer or your phone goes off. This works just as well with songs – have them clean their room before their favourite song finishes and see just how quickly things get done.
- Make a Bingo style game of morning routines – have a bingo card and the kids get to cross the tasks e.g. breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, off as they go. When the Bingo card is completed they get a reward if there is time left before leaving the house.
Another crucial component of functioning well is sleep. Every living thing on the planet needs sleep to survive, and it is especially important for children’s growing bodies. The amount of sleep they get has a direct impact on their ability to concentrate at school and on their academic performance.
Children benefit from having routines that get them ready for bed as well as a consistent bedtime that allows for enough sleep (they need anywhere between 10-11 hours each night). Bedtime routines that calm children and provide comfort will help them settle and it is a good idea to stay away from computers, iPads, phones and other screens an hour before bedtime so that the brain has time to wind down.
These strategies and ideas will build upon and support each other creating a strong foundation that provides the scaffolding and support for your child to have a successful school year.