If you peeked into my kitchen at about 7:30am any morning last week, you would have found me lazily moving about, sipping my coffee, slowly fixing breakfasts, acting as if we had the entire long day ahead of us. If you then peeked back in at 8am, you would have found me scrambling to get shoes on feet, gathering forms and lunch boxes and, most importantly, people, and breathlessly pushing us all out the door. Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 it would occur to me that summer is over, school is in session, and a whole new routine needs to get moving.
That’s how it is this time every year. We get so comfortable in our summer swing that adjusting to start times and end times, drop offs and pick ups, is rough. It all feels so uncomfortable and unnatural at first. Of course, we all know that by the end of the month, we’ll all have settled in and today’s new routine will feel normal and predictable. But what do we do until then?
If you’re struggling to get back in the school rhythm, here are a few tips to ease the transition.
Be Kind to Yourself and Your Kids
My first reaction anytime I’ve gotten a seriously late start to the morning has been to criticize myself and feel frustrated at my kids. Getting out the door at the same time every morning is not a difficult task. So why can’t we do it? Well, after all of those weeks off, reporting someplace at a specific, and early, time is no longer our routine. It’s no longer a habit. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, every habit starts with a habit loop. This loop involves the cue that triggers your brain to automatically begin, the routine itself, and then the reward. After a month of sipping coffee in my kitchen with no urgent need to leave the house, I’m not triggered by any cue right now to get my kids dressed and out the door. But I’m pretty sure that by next week, I’ll be motivated by the reward of a calm morning commute to bring this habit back into our world.
Set up a System
A friend confessed to me once that she sometimes sets an alarm to go off late in the afternoon. The purpose of the alarm? To remind her to pick her son up at school. I’m sure every parent knows that this has nothing to do with how much she loves her son (she loves him very much) but everything to do with how easy it is to get distracted in work or the flow of your day. Alarms can be the solution to so many back-to-school scheduling woes. Set one to go off twenty minutes before you have to leave in the morning to remind everyone to start getting ready. Set another for five minutes before bed each night, especially if you’ve had to move bedtime back to it’s earlier, school-year slot after some regularly late summer nights. Set one for anything that is new this year, as an extra little bit of help while your brain adjusts to the new flow of your day.
Schedule in Some Down Time
If you’re feeling as though you’re running from one thing to the next, sliding in late every time, check in to make sure that you really are just adjusting and that you haven’t overbooked yourself or your family. The temptation to sign up for every activity and committee and event in the early days of the school year is real but be sure to schedule in some down time too. Pick an afternoon, or an entire day if you can, when everyone can just relax a bit. After all, summer may be over but the new Fall air is bringing in some lovely sunny skies. Just because school is back in session doesn’t mean you should miss out on some fun in the sun.
Remember, You’re Not Alone
All of us are suffering the culture shock of the end of another summer and the high-speed ride of another school year. It’s a universal thing this time of year. So, when all else fails, just remember, we’re all in this together and I can’t find a matching pair of shoes at 8am either.