Transitioning back to school can be tough on everyone in the family. But easing back into a rhythm at the end of the summer break will set you up for school success.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for getting kids back on track before the new school year starts.
1) Set up a reward system related to anything they need extra motivation to do: chores, reading, math fact practice, etc. This can be individualized to what each of your children struggle with and what their motivational currency is. For some kids, rewards may be money or treats; for other kids, it may be privileges such as staying up late or getting to watch an extra cartoon.
2) Decide on a routine that’s easy to manage. Maybe you want your child to help with some household tasks. Or perhaps you want him to read a wider variety of books. Choose one or two routines — at most — that would help your child practice those abilities over and over.
3) Break those skills into small tasks that correlate to how much time you have before the summer break is over. Even if you have only a week left of the break, a small task is something your child will get to practice seven days in a row. So if you decide that she needs to brush her teeth better and learn the 3’s multiplication facts, you can teach your child how to do these and watch what your child will learns in just seven days of a routine working on two small skills.
5) Combine routine with time together. Use the structured “to do list” to your advantage. Let it dictate when you will spend dedicated time with your child. For example, if you work outside the home and need to get dinner going each evening, decide which time of the day it’s easier for you to spend dedicated time with your child. If it’s evening, devote 30 minutes in between working and cooking to play a card game, draw, or do something meaningful with your child.
Depending on what that activity is, make sure your child has a to-do list that says, for example, “play a new game each day” or “draw with Mom.” This way, your child has structure, and you’re guaranteed a special one-on-one time with him.
6) Keep it simple. Lists and routines shouldn’t overwhelm children. So if your child is 6, make sure the chart is appropriate for a 6-year-old. A to-do list that includes cleaning his room and the kitchen, writing a paragraph, painting a picture, and playing outside for two hours each day might be asking too much.
However, if your child is 10 or 11, that might be an appropriate-sized list. You know your child best. Make sure the routines match his or her needs and capabilities. Here is a sample list of chores children can do
at varying ages.
7) Involve your child. One of the best ways to give a child a sense of ownership is to ask for his or her input. For very young children, this can mean letting them color the printable you make for their charts. With older children, it could involve getting their opinions about what they want to read for the rest of the summer or how they’d like to build chores into their week.
8) Keep the rewards doable. If you promise a visit to a local ice cream restaurant for every book that is read, it might be tough to sustain when your child reads a book every few days. However, if your child gets to choose a coupon from the “extra privilege” bucket each time he reads a book, that can be sustained. Coupons might include ideas such as staying up 30 minutes later, inviting a friend to play the following week, or choosing a chocolate treat after dinner.
9) Keep your feedback positive. Whether children are learning a new chore or just jumping into a new rhythm, we can’t expect our kids to “hit it out of the park” on the first, second, or even third try. Showing them how to do the task a few times, coaching them to do it, and encouraging them in the process can go a long way. Providing careful, positive feedback helps your child feel proud of his effort and encouraged to take on new skills and adjust slowly to new routines.
10) Designate zones in your home. Routines and rhythms can be hard to keep if your teenager is playing X-box in the family room, your little one is napping in his room, and your 8-year-old just wants to practice guitar. Where in the house does she go to do that? Setting up zones and “off-limits” time in the schedule will help everyone in the family know when it’s okay to turn up the music and where to go when they want to cozy up with a good book.
Starting any kind of routine as summer winds down is a great way to transition to back-to-school rhythms when it’s time.