Our Back to School Routines Are More Needed Than Ever

In many parts of the world, August is back-to-school season. 

It may be over 90 degrees outside, but in a typical (non-pandemic) year, you’d already feel the palpable excitement in the air throughout our neighborhood. Busy parents would be rushing through the aisles of Target on a mission to grab school supplies, backpacks, and new school clothes or uniforms to replace last year’s worn or outgrown pieces. Kids would be checking their class lists to see if they’ll have classes with their besties this year. And families would be slowly trying to ease back into a routine, ensuring that it’s not a major jolt to the system when that first day of school arrives.

So what on earth will the back-to-school routines look like this year? 

It’s been challenging to create routines of any kind during quarantine. One day blurs into the next. Weeks blur into months. Suddenly, we’ve jumped from April to August. The passage of time has been stranger than ever—hours slowly creeping by, yet time flying past. 

In many homes, the daily schedule has been all over the place. Kids may wake up super early or late, or eat at random times of the day. They may not have the regular bedtime routines that they had in “normal” life. This can all feel incredibly discombobulating for children and adults alike. And for anyone who tends to need structure and predictability, this helter-skelter lack of routine can cause a great deal of anxiety.

Here are some ideas to help your family get back into a routine with the start of school around the corner, along with a few caveats for learning online vs. in school buildings:

Change your sleep routine. 

Most families have a successful track record of creating sleep routines that work for their kids, so it’s time to dust off those sleep routines! Start talking with your kids about getting back into a familiar habit, but remember that these may need to be adjusted now that the kids are a bit older. 

Take a look at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations to get a sense of how much sleep your kids need. From there, start moving the bedtime back in small increments until you reach a consistent bedtime that both makes sense and gives your kid a good night’s sleep. 

Create a family schedule. 

Some families may have kept to a very firm, structured schedule while in quarantine. Others may have struggled to keep a consistent routine. Family culture will certainly dictate where along the continuum feels best, but now is a great time to draft a (somewhat) consistent schedule to help reestablish the rhythms of the day. Check the Project Quarantine page for some great ideas that may be useful as your family works to create a schedule that works. 

An additional challenge to consider in getting back into a consistent back to school routine is the learning model your child will engage in: virtual, in-school, or a hybrid model. A family may need more than one schedule (or perhaps different ones for different kids) based on what the school schedule will look like!

This may feel crazy-making, but it helps to take a deep breath and carve out time to plan. Pull in your support system, whomever that may be—your spouse, friends, neighbors, or family members—to help draft your family schedule. It might take several sheets of paper, a colorful Excel spreadsheet, or a big whiteboard: whatever it is, find what works best for your family.

Bring your enthusiasm and positive attitude.

This one’s gonna be a whole lot harder, and I know I heard some of you LOL upon reading this. But seriously, we all need to dig deep: our kids need us to reassure them that we will all get through this. 

This doesn’t mean we need to be 100% “sunshine and rainbows.” Our kids will know we’re being disingenuous. However, we all need to find our own unique ways of finding balance between realism and optimism in this unprecedented and stressful time of our lives. You can point out and laugh together about all the bizarre things we have to do to get ready for school in 2020—buy new masks, take our temperature everyday, log onto Zoom calls with teachers, etc. You can say to your child: “Isn’t this weird? We need to do these things to stay safe and healthy, but we’ll get through it together.”

Make room for a healthy dose of self-care.

Parents everywhere are going through a hellish and incredibly stressful time. Whether the kids return to a school building or learn virtually at home, we’re all worried about keeping them healthy, both physically and emotionally. 

Don’t be afraid to lean in on your support systems right now, or to revisit coping strategies that have helped you manage stress in the past. Make sure you’re writing self-care activities into the back to school routines, both for you and for your kids. 

As we move through August (and hopefully the cool breeze of September comes soon), Project Village will continue to support you and your family. Comment below with the strategies and tricks that are working for your family as you get ready for back-to-school season!

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