The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, with family, all of the treats — literally all of them — and feelings of magic as we witness the wonder in our kids. Getting back to reality and our daily routines, though, is tough for all of us. Especially the littlest humans in our families. We caught up with school psychologist Ritchlyn Garvey to get her tips for making the transition back to school after a holiday break as meltdown-free as possible.
“Returning to a schedule after the holidays can be very stressful as children learn to readapt to the routine and structure at home and in school,” says Garvey.
Returning to school after a fun vacation, visit with family, or simply unstructured days at home can always be sad/hard for our kids. Validate their feelings and help them understand that it’s okay to feel sad. Help them readjust by explaining that school or daycare will be starting again in a few days. Explain that their teacher and friends are excited to see them and hear all about their time off. It also helps to talk about bedtime routines, morning rituals, and what to expect in the next couple of days.
Following any structured sleep schedules while home on break or away for the holidays is difficult to nearly impossible. With school and work beginning after the New Year, it’s important to reintroduce a bedtime schedule. Depending on how far off your routine you are, start the Friday before school opens by putting your child to bed 30 minutes earlier. Increase bedtime by another 30 minutes the next day and another the following day if needed. By the time Monday rolls around, your child should be back in a good nighttime groove and getting the much needed sleep to make mornings easier.
If your child is getting enough sleep at night, they should be able to wake up at a reasonable time in the morning. If school starts at 8am, and let’s say your morning routine takes 90 minutes between getting dressed, eating breakfast, and the commute to school, then 6-6:30am is a great wake-up time. Just like you started implementing the bedtime routine the weekend before school starts, do the same with your morning routine. Plan to give yourself an extra 30 minutes that first day to account for any meltdowns or unforeseen hiccups, etc.
Separation anxiety is real! Spend extra time cuddling your babies and giving them moments of your undistracted attention before the start of school. Allow them time to express their feelings, but be firm in their schedule and attendance at school.
Getting back on a routine can be simple for some children and difficult for others. Every child is different. Be easy on yourself mama and stick it out. You can do it!
More for my sanity, but it helps my girls get back on track for their sleeping pattern and they’re better at school. Also my girls are pretty excited to see their friends again! I also will let them pick out their clothes for their first day back at school. We lay everything out so they can get themselves ready when they wake up at 7! – Lia, 8 and 5-year-old
At their respective levels, for about 30-45 minutes once during their vacation in Florida and then will repeat again the Sunday before school starts when they’re home. That way, come Monday they’ll be able to better pick back up their classroom routines. – Adriana, 6 and 4-year-old
We talked about all the people she would see. Also, I picked her up early yesterday for a park playdate.” – Laura, 3-year-old
And I reminded him of all of his friends that he hasn’t seen in weeks.” – Yasmine, 4-year-old
I also get rid of any late night screen time and cut out all sugary treats post bed. And then I really enforce our routine again (bath, books, bed).” – Nicole, 6,4, and 2-year-old
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