September means 'Back to School' and new routines. Childcare expert Michelle Barr gives her advice on ways you can adjust that can help you gain a lean, mean, everyday routine.
With September comes the excitement and trepidation of a new school year.
New school supplies, new or bigger uniforms, and discussions of new teachers and friends - these all replace the lazy days of summer, where routines went out the window. Those slow weeks of leisure seem a long time ago now!
Now that you're a few weeks in...how did it go? Did you make it to school and work on time the first week back? How many kit bags were forgotten on the bottom step and how many nights have you already thrown in the towel on bedtimes or homework? In case things aren't going as smoothly as you'd hope, here are some ways that might help you adjust to a new routine without losing sight of what's important.
Get the kids involved and decide on the routine before the questions start. What time does everyone need to get up? Is it realistic to ask them to do this themselves with the use of an alarm clock or another device? Much as you might want them to be self-sufficient, is it better, for now, to accept that you will wake them up at the right time - and to do so happily, rather than being grumpy or tetchy about the fact that 'yet again' they are not up and about in good time.
If running to time is proving hard, consider what extra help they need help with. If you need them to help you, then what are those things you need them to be doing? If it's unpacking the lunchbox as soon as they come home from school, or giving you wet or dirty clothes, are these things you can encourage them to do now, or is it easier to take control and extract them yourself, just to save time and know where things are when you need them.
Time is always a crucial factor. When do you need to leave the house? When is homework time? When is bedtime? Do you allow playdates during the week? Who is picking the kids up and dropping them off? Also, do think about your child's needs. Are they too hungry to jump right into homework after school? Or too tired to do homework after a certain time? Is there time for digital or video games during the week and if so, how much time - a fixed or a variable amount?
Talking about it in advance gives the children a chance to talk about anything they are concerned about. The more involved everyone is in this process, the more likely they are to want it to succeed. Plus if they help to decide their bedtime, it's a lot harder to argue about it later.
You can take all these things a step further and put up a schedule or agreed on rules on the fridge or wall space, making it even easier for you to point out what should be happening!
It also helps to have a recap time after school or before bed. This gives everyone a chance to highlight any problems that have come up and to celebrate successes, and remind all of the adults involved what they are responsible for the next day. This is a good time to remind the children of any changes such as a change of who is picking them up from school or a cancelled club.
Putting plans in place can be time-consuming, but, once you put in the initial effort, the end result will be worth it!
It might be a little late for this now, but don't forget all of the holidays you have coming up in the next few months. And all the 'back to school' times that will happen again and again.
When things change, don't wait until the day you need the new routine and a new term to start to get into the swing of things. Start getting the kids up earlier the week before. Do a few 'test runs' to new venues - or at least allow extra time - to see how long it will take you to get there. Get the children into the habit of laying out their clothes the night before. If there is no homework, but you want to preserve the timeslot for something educational or learning-focused, then have a story-writing session during what might have been a homework time, and start on school term bedtimes in advance. Everyone will take a different amount of time to fall into a routine, but getting a head start won't hurt!
Children are more perceptive than we often realise. If you feel a sense of apprehension about the new routine, your children are more likely to be anxious too. Remember to stay positive in front of them. Don't complain about the new routine, or make them feel like it's a hassle. If cycling to school as a family seems like fun, so does what's on the other end of that ride!
A routine doesn't mean you can't be spontaneous or have a little fun! Make sure you set aside an evening a week or part of your weekend to have fun as a family, make the plan each week so it?s flexible, as you don't want to cancel when a big assignment comes up.
This is a time everyone can look forward to and help come up with ideas. Whether it's a games night, a slumber party, a movie night or a family bike ride, it's a great time to escape the weekly grind and enjoy!
Once the planning and discussions are out of the way, don't dwell on it, just do it! There is no point in labouring on about the change, it's a done deal - so set the plan in motion.