Back to School Routines: 5 Tips to Ease into a New Morning Routine

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It’s that time of year again!  Taylor heads back-to-school next week and we are gearing up for another exciting school year!  We have fallen out of our normal routine this summer with later morning wake-up calls, lazy summer days, and traveling, and we have been slowly easing back into our routine in preparation for the start of the school year.  Routines are great for kids because it gives them a sense of predictability in their lives. Here are a few of our recommendations on easing into a new morning routine before the first day of school:


1.    Prepare

Talk to the teacher ahead of time to learn more about the schedule for the day and periods of transition and arrange a time for you child to meet her teacher and aides before the start of school.  For at least two weeks prior to the start of school, show your child a picture of their new school.  Talk to them about drop off and how they will get to their class. To build independence, let them know who they should look for and who they should ask if they have questions. If the child’s teacher is willing, have them send a picture of themselves that you can show to your child.   Choose age-appropriate books about starting school and listen to children’s songs about going to school. This will help engage your child in conversation and prepare them for their first day.


2.    Get Adequate Sleep


Make sure your child is getting adequate sleep.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per night for optimal health.  Adequate sleep will make for a smoother morning routine and school day.  This is equally important throughout the summer months, so start getting your kids into bed earlier and earlier each night.  


3.    Begin Adjusting Your Morning Routine at Least Two Weeks Before the Start of School


During the two weeks prior to the start of school, ease into a new routine by waking up five minutes earlier each day.  After 12 days, your child will be getting up an hour earlier than they did during the summer.  Go through your morning routine as you would when school starts.  If your child is sensitive to schedule changes, consider starting this transition a month prior to the beginning of the school year by making small changes each day or week to your typical schedule.  Do practice drives to the school and show her where she will be dropped off.


4.    Allow Your Child to Make Choices or Utilize Adaptive and Visual Communication Tools


Talk with your child about what will help them be most successful.  Many children struggle with the ability to manage their time, focus, and get organized.  Your child may benefit from and enjoy having a reward system in place for completing morning routines such as packing a backpack or turning in homework.  Some children respond well when timers are set to complete tasks or set as a reminder to take breaks, while others find timers to be anxiety-inducing.  Include your child in the conversation and allow them to make choices to create a smoother overall experience. 

If your child is a visual learner or is unable to have a verbal conversation about school, consider integrating and utilizing adaptive communication.  Teach sign language associated with school.  Create a story board or routine on an electronic communication device. Or consider creating a story board with PECS cards – you can utilize visual schedules like this the ones linked here and here for your morning routine. You can also create a story board highlighting aspects of the school schedule like getting on the bus, saying hello to the teacher, washing hands, circle time, reading time, lunch, etc.  Engage your child in the routine and the story leading up to the start of school so they can anticipate the schedule and routine.


5.    Give Yourself and Your Child Some Grace

The first few weeks of school are overwhelming and stimulating for ALL children.  It may take a few weeks for child to adapt to a new environment, new faces, and new routine.  Your child may be more tired, hungry, grumpy, or anxious than normal.  For many parents, this will begin to even out after a few weeks.  If your child seems particularly overwhelmed, tired, or having behavioral issues after several weeks, consider a meeting with your child’s teachers and team to see if any small adjustments can be made that might make a big impact for you and your child.


Tell us how your first day of school went!  What do you and your family do to re-establish a back-to-school routine?