The summer months have inevitably involved letting some of our good routines slide. If you are like me your teenage children are sleeping in until all hours and are often the ones turning off the lights at an ungodly hour! Others will admit to the fridge constantly being open with a ‘help yourself if you’re hungry’ approach. For others screen time, play time, bath time and sleep time are all over the shop. BUT, the return to school is coming fast. If you are like me, this fills me with dread as I now have to address all these established habits. So what can we do?
When routines are in place children feel more secure. Parents feel calmer and more in control. By adjusting our summer routine, it will help children understand that the summer is coming to an end and help prepare them for the return of school. Easier said than done right? Where do you start?
Begin by having plan in your own head about what routines you would like to see happen. Agree this with your partner to ensure you don’t have mixed messages. Set a time to have the chat about routines with your child. Get their views on this and agree a plan together. Make sure that they understand the plan. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day so put the plan into place gradually, making small adjustments daily. Talk to your child to see if the plan is working and make changes if they are needed.
Bedtimes will be the first on my list. It won’t be easy as it is still bright at 9pm, but It needs to be done. Start by adjusting bedtimes gradually. Two weeks before the first day of school, start to move your child’s bedtime earlier at night. Wake them a small bit earlier each morning. Continue this process every night until your child is waking at the same time that will be necessary once school starts.
Aim to create a relaxing wind-down routine. For about an hour before you want the lights turned off for the night encourage calming activities. For younger children this might be taking a bath or reading a book together. For older children this could be listening to music, taking a shower or meditation. By repeating this every night in the weeks leading up to the first day of school it will help your child to anticipate sleep time, making it easier for everyone once school starts again.
Next up, screen time. We know that less screen time before bed will improve the quality of their sleep. Yes, they love playing with their friends on line and who doesn’t enjoy a game of Mario Cart? They can still do this, but – earlier in the day. Aim for no screen time an hour before your child goes to sleep. Avoid screens in their bedroom. Watch those smart phones too. Agreeing a plan in advance on technology will prevent problems and fighting in the long run.
Last but not least mealtimes. Plan to adjust mealtimes gradually in August to match up with school lunch breaks. Chat about the importance of eating well. Encourage your child to think of food as fuel for their body. Involve them in decisions about what they eat, the weekly shop, meal planning and preparation.
So we have a plan. One day at a time and the hard work will pay off. Don’t forget that you are doing a great job in a very difficult time. Good luck!
This article was written by the Tusla Prevention, Partnership and Family Support team, a member of Parenting Limerick.