It’s happening. The thing you thought would never come has come. We’re back to school. Pools are closing. Backpacks are fattening up with things to be done. Buses are rounding the corners like jumbo jets ready to take your kids up and away to higher learning. And on those mornings as you stand at the end of your road and wave them off, the air is just a degree or two cooler and you feel made new again.
And then the full speed of autumn hits and your kids turn into Children of the Corn, hollow-eyed and monotone. They’re feeling the constant buzzing of homework and later nights and darker mornings and extracurricular activities and meals on the go. They have touched down in a new season on a new clock, but their bodies and minds are still in summer.
There are ways to gently bring them around though, so that it doesn’t feel quite like getting thrown off a moving walkway. Here are a few suggestions for easing the transition so that it doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world to wake up and do the school thing instead of the pool thing.
1 | Let the light shine in
We’re in a sweet spot right now at the tail end of summer when it gets light right around the time the alarm should go off. It doesn’t always work this way. In October, we’ll be buying new blackout shades and cursing the 5 p.m. darkness. But for now, the sun works in our favor. Let it help you wake them up. Leave the blinds cracked so that the natural light can wake the brain and the body and keep that Circadian rhythm working in your favor.
2 | Make this homework rule the rule of thumb
The basic math equation for elementary school homework is this: for every grade level, add 10 minutes of homework per night. So, if you have a second-grader, they should have around 20 minutes of school work to do at the day’s end.
Kids can’t handle much more than that allotment on a daily basis. If it looks like much more than that then something’s off. Talk to the teacher and find out how much he or she expects from your child. They can’t ease in to a new year if they’re already snowed under with homework.
3 | Keep the schedule at home
Free time for an hour right off the bus or work first and then play. Home-cooking around the dinner table or takeout on the go. Bedtime at 7 p.m. Whatever works for your family, do it. Just be consistent about it. As much as kids hate routine, they also need it, especially at home when they’ve been trying to learn a whole new schedule at school. Routine gives the brain and the body a rest when both have been in “go mode” all day.
4 | Limit the junk
I’m not just talking caffeine or snacks from the vending machine. I’m talking the junk from Facebook and Instagram and all the other corners of the internet that light up like pinballs when school starts back. It gets slower over the summer when there’s more outside time away from gadgets. You can watch them sit and look at a bug for the same amount of time they normally spend texting or scrolling. Now that school is back, so is all that, and you’re going to have to help them rein it in so they remember to look up and breathe every now and then.
5 | Live the last bits of summer that you can
For just a little while longer the water is warm and the sun is out until bedtime. The crickets are still chirping and the grill is still fired up and the tan lines are still visible. Let them enjoy it. Soak up the remnants of summer days with dinner out on the deck and bare feet and lazy Saturdays at the park. The start of school doesn’t have to mean drawing the curtains and barring the doors. If anything, now is the time to let them run wild even more. They’ll need a way to get all that pent-up energy out and it will do everybody some good to separate the academic day from the domestic one with some free play.
It doesn’t have to feel like whiplash, this back-to-school season. The jet lag only really gets you when you think you can hit it at a run. If summer was all about easy-living, let the transition to fall be that too.