Transitioning Summer to School: Restarting Routines

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, August 07, 2019
By Ricardo Sardina , LMHC


Summer time for many is a time to break away from the structure, routine and rules given to us by school. Summer for kids can be a time to slack off and simply rest. For parents it can be a time of letting things slide and allowing the children to relax after a tough school year. Our everyday routine during the summer changes to the point that kids are more comfortable, relaxed and happy. Bedtime is later and not truly enforced by the parents, supper time is more laid back and not too healthy at times. Let’s not forget, most of us take summer vacation with the family during this time so our daily routine during the school months is extremely none existent. But all good things come to an end. We have approximately two to three weeks left of Summer and breaking out of this approach and back to the busy schedule of school is not so easy for many of us.

The challenges of going to bed earlier, waking up at 5am or 6am can be a difficult task for many of us. Some may adapt to the waking up early but most kids have a very challenging time in simply going to bed earlier and waking up early. Returning to school may simply be very hard for a lot of kids of many ages. But as we all know, this does not mean it will be the end of the world and most of our kids will adapt and adjust to returning to school. As parents, the last thing we want is to have our children start the school year off on the wrong note. There are a few steps that might make the transition from summer to school more smoothly.

Daily Routine

In my opinion, this is important to all children, even with teens. Having a routine in our life can help us be more organized and have positive habits that would prepare us for later in life. Kids that do not have a routine often spend their time not doing much to the point that they appear lazy, not wanting to do anything and may appear disrespectful. Nowadays, a child without a routine tends to sleep all day, play video games constantly or constantly be on their phone and not want to adjust to returning to school. Without a routine it can cause a child to not be responsible and take school seriously. Someone who follows a routine adjusts better when returning to school, performs better academically, and is more respectful. It is not guaranteed that having a daily routine will make your child into a well behaved child but it establishes a guideline on being more responsible. A parent and child may come up with a daily routine schedule but it is up to the parents to make sure that the child follows it on a daily basis and be consistent with the routine themselves.

Restarting Routine

This is difficult not only for children but also for the parents. We all need time to adjust to the many changes that occur when returning to school. A good way to return to the daily routine is starting with at least two weeks before school starts. Making bedtime earlier and sticking to a schedule for supper. Not only coming up with a schedule for dinner but eating as a family together is important in returning to the routine.

Sleep Routine

One of the most challenging things for kids is going to bed on time and getting up early in the morning to get ready for school. A good technique in starting this routine is setting up the routine two weeks in advance. Yes, your child will not be happy, but the closer school gets the easier it will be for your child to go to bed. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to eliminate all distractions the child may have which keeps him up at night. This might mean to take away all electronics from the room and place them in a secure place where the child would not be able to grab when you are sleeping. While speaking to one of my parent clients, she informed me of a technique that seems to work for her. She tends to move bedtime earlier to at least 30 minutes starting two weeks before school starts. For instance, if the child has been going to bed at 11pm, they begin to go to be at 10:30pm for two nights, after that bedtime would be 10pm and so forth. You do this until the appropriate time arrives. This way, the child would adjust to the earlier sleep time and when school starts they would be used to it.

Meal Routine

As mentioned before, serving dinner at approximately at the same time helps kids remain on schedule. A good way to begin this is starting two weeks before school begins. Tell family members that there is a set time to eat and the family is going to attempt to eat together. A good approach is preparing meals that everyone could help cook and be together. Eating together is challenging due to parents’ work schedules, which are not flexible at times, and school activities can get in the way of having a meal at the same time everyday. However, preparing to eat together can help kids do better in school. The benefits of eating together teaches kids to listen and be around grownups at the table. It gives the kids a safe place to express themselves which may give them confidence to speak up in class. Most importantly, parents are more likely to know what is going on in school when spending time together during dinner time.

Go for a test run

What better way to see how your child would adapt to the transition from summer to school if you have a test run, a practice run. A few days before school starts, have your child wake up early and complete a daily routine in getting ready for school. This way they practice what they’re doing and are more prepared for the real day of school. For the younger kids, attempt driving them to school so they know how long it will take to get to school, and it familiarizes them on what the school looks like.

Through preparation and returning to basic routines with your child, you can prepare for a smooth and less stressful start to a new school year. Remember, the most important thing you can do as a parent during the transition from summer to school, is to be consistent with your child and let them know you are there for them.

Like my client, what tips can you share for preparing kids for the first day of school?