Every Fall, about a week or two before my kids start school again, we have a “back to school conversation.”
When my children were younger (up to around 4th or 5th grade), parents set bedtimes and wake times and then together with our kids, we brainstormed morning and bedtime routines and created routine charts to stay on track. Learn more about creating effective routine charts here: Bye-bye to morning, evening and homework battles with this one simple tool.
As my children grew older, however, I began to get some resistance to bed and wake times, and the visual routine chart lost some appeal. So, around middle school, setting bed and wake times became more of a conversation and we recorded the results of our conversation on a template (it’s still a routine chart, actually, but it lacks pictures now and we fill in the blanks together. Scroll down to see it and get a downloadable version.)
My children are much more likely to wake and get to bed on time when they’ve helped to think through what those times should be.
Here’s how it works…
I pose a series of questions to my children, listen for their answers, and then if we disagree, we discuss our different perspectives until we arrive at an agreement we can both live with. We’ve been doing it for several years now, so the conversation these past few years has been pretty short.
Here is the basic interview guide I use:
What time do you need to be at school?
What time do we need to leave for school to get there on time?
How much time do you need to get ready for school?
Given all that, what time do you need to wake up?
What extracurricular activities would you like to participate in this Fall?
What responsibilities are you willing to take on this Fall (I present some options)?
When will they get done?
When and where do you want to do your homework?
What time do you need to be in bed in order to get the amount of sleep you need? (Since we now know what time they need to wake up, this can often be a simple calculation based on American Association of Pediatrics recommendations).
How long does it take for you to get ready for bed (brush teeth, shower, etc.)?
Therefore, what time should you head up for your bedtime routine?
The Template we are working to fill in looks like this:
Template for a Smooth Transition Back To School
Wake up time _________
Leave house at ________________
Be to school by ________________
Afternoon jobs (what) ________________ (when) _____________
Music/other practice (when) ___________________
Homework (where) _____________________ (when) __________________
Other agreements _____________________
Head up for bedtime routine at (time) ______________
Lights out by (time) __________
Here’s the output that we have posted up on the bulletin board in the kitchen:
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Want more? Read on for a few of my favorite articles on going back to school:
- From the Child Mind Institute: Back to School Anxiety – if your child runs anxious, this article provides both a perspective and practical tips
- From me: 3 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School – short and sweet, the 3 most important tips.
- From me: Going Back to School in Chunks – how to deal with the (parent’s) overwhelm that often accompanies going back to school
- From Laura Markham: Preparing Kids for a New School Year – a thorough list of ways to help your child transition smoothly