The End-of-Summer Back-to-School Hangover: How to Get Kids Back on a Schedule

Summer is essentially a free-for-all. Blame it on the long daylight hours or just the joy of being outside with minimal clothes on, but somehow my kids’ sleep schedule has been on a slippery slope down to disaster all summer long. Naps are often skipped in favor of another hour at the pool and those sleepovers at the lawless society called "the grandparents' house" always require a two-day recovery for my boys. Now that school is just about to start (yippee!) it’s time to get the little buggers back on a schedule. But how can we stop the madness of the summer and get them ready for the school year?

Get back to a nighttime routine. A quick wash of the hands before your kid face plants down on their bed in the t-shirt they’ve been wearing all day isn’t going to cut it anymore. “Make a checklist for your child to follow -- bath, brush teeth, book, bed,” suggests Dr. Michele Borba, child expert and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. Help kids create a poster board checklist (with pictures on it for younger ones) so they know exactly what they need to do.

Rewind time. Borba suggests pushing back their bedtime 10 to 15 minutes earlier every night and waking them up 10 to 15 minutes earlier in the morning until you've gotten back to the right school wake up time.

Create a command center. Get a whiteboard or large calendar and color code the kids with different markers. Write down now anything that’ll be a recurring event (sock puppet-making class, tae kwon do, circus lessons, whatever).

Find a place for everything. Reduce morning mania by making a spot by the door where readied backpacks live so kids can grab them and go. That includes a place for keys and phone for grown-ups, too. That way, there’s no hysteria in the morning looking for missing items. (One mom we know doesn't bother sorting socks -- she just throws them in a basket by the door, so there's no running back to bedrooms for them.)

Set up a homework area. Stock up on supplies and set up labeled bins for each kid. It's hard enough for kids to get back into the routine -- they need an open dedicated work space with their supplies in easy reach.

Develop your mom schedule, too
. Zombie in the morning? Plan to pack lunches at night and lay out clothes for the next day. (Recent food safety guidelines suggest that freezing sandwiches ahead of time keeps school lunches at safe temperatures. Make a few days worth at a time!)

Finally, enjoy the last days of an unfettered summer schedule. Then get those kids to bed early!

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