It has started. Across the country, kids from kindergarten to college are heading back to school.
I miss that back-to-school ritual. Shopping for new clothes (even uniforms), textbooks, pens, folders, notebooks, and lunch boxes made me happy. Spending a day with my mom and sister focused on a bright, new beginning. It was a wonderful ritual. We would always be excited to show our dad all the new treasures. He would heartily approve of our purchases and remind us to use them to get good grades.
I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that much of that ritual and tradition is fading away. Online shopping, frantic last-minute errands, and people doing “their own thing” seems to be replacing planned family outings. Maintaining some structure, routine, and ritual is more and more challenging.
But the “whatever” approach to life is not very fulfilling. Human beings, whether they are in a newborn nursery or a nursing home, do best when they have a healthy routine. If you have school-age kids, it may help to consider a few time-tested principles. Establishing these “rules” is a lot easier at the start of the school year than it is after a month or two of foundering and fiascos.
- Preserve and protect bedtime — few factors influence performance at school (or work) more than sleep. And most kids need a lot more of it. Unfortunately, when kids stay up until 10, 11, or 12 at night during the summer and then try to go sleep at 8:30 or 9, things don’t go well. Begin to ease everyone into school-day bedtimes and wake-up schedules a week before school starts. Only the strongest and wisest of parents will even attempt this.
- Get everyone up early enough to have a decent breakfast and avoid morning rush and chaos. Some people never learn this principle, but most successful people get up long before they “have to.”
- Teach kids to prepare as much as possible the night before — homework, projects, clothes, permission slips, etc. This is another principle of success in life and does wonders for easing stress and anxiety.
- Limit TV and screen time, especially on school nights. Bullying and generalized nastiness abound on social media. Kids will always complain about rules and boundaries, but deep down every child wants to feel safe, secure, and loved. It helps if mom and dad set a good example here.
- Create a home environment that’s conducive to calming down. Overstimulation and overextending are epidemic in our culture and disastrous for concentration or restorative sleep.
- Establish and maintain a family dinner hour without devices. Kids must be taught how to have a conversation and actually be attentive to others. There are 50-somethings out there who haven’t learned this.
People will always insist they don’t have time for lots of things. But we all get 24 hours of time each day. The question is, which activities will really make a difference down the road? Establishing a healthy back-to-school routine can be the foundation for a happy, successful life.