Skip Navigation

Establish routines to help children transition back to school


As the summer wanes, parents ask me how to transition their kids back to school. Often, that involves getting kids back into a good morning and evening routine. Most parents know that routine is good for kids. For most kids, it helps them feel safe, less anxious, and that the world is more predictable.

Jeff Johnson.jpg

Jeff Johnson, WellSpan Philhaven therapist

However, for many of us (myself included), getting back into a good routine is exhausting, hard and sometimes impossible because of all the summer activities.

So, for all the weary parents out there, here are some tips to help.

Start early.

It’s typically easier to start early on something we are trying to change, but it’s hard for us procrastinators. Let’s finally learn from our mistakes of waiting until the last minute and start early. For most of us, we need a good two weeks of consistent change for us to have a good chance of sticking with it. Don’t try to make dramatic changes in sleep, schedule or routine at the last minute. The earlier you start, the more time you have to adjust how you respond to your child’s mood and behaviors as they work on getting into a new routine. It also helps us start to re-adjust our own schedules and routine to accommodate the upcoming changes and allow changes to happen gradually.

Take it slow.

Make one change, adjust to it and then move onto the next. This includes things such as wake-up time, bed time, screen time and family time. This will allow you to start to set more rules, limits and consequences, since those can get laxer during the summers. It also helps not have to battle everything at one time. It’s hard for most of us to adjust to sudden changes in time, schedule, and sleep. We forget that kids struggle more because their schedule and sleep are most likely the most disrupted.

Keep it within your means and abilities.

You know your schedule and routine. You know as a family what you are capable of and can do. So, keep it with in your means and abilities. We don’t need more stress in our lives and often we try to overdo, for whatever reason, and can come up short. If you are getting anxious that it might be too much, it might be too much. If someone is complaining that it is too much, it might be too much for them. Know your family, yourself and your relationships. Sometimes we must slow down so others can catch up.

If trying to get into a routine is near impossible and every action is a fight, seek out help.

Your child acting out may be a sign that they need help, you need help, or everyone needs help. Talk with someone you trust and feel you can confide in. We all, as parents, sometimes need a good sounding board for how we parent. Seek out a friend, family or community support. If you don’t have a resource, or you and your child are really struggling, seek professional help. This work is too difficult and important to do it alone.

Good luck with your parenting journey. Breathe and hug through the tough times, and appreciate the good ones.

Jeff Johnson is an outpatient therapist with WellSpan Philhaven.


Staff reporting

Read more by Staff