Winter break injects some fun into an otherwise dull, cold time of year. But when the festivities end in the new year, kids often struggle with the transition back to routine, rules, and homework. Returning to the classroom doesn’t invoke the same excitement as back to school in August, and summer break feels overwhelmingly far away.
So how can you help your whole family get back into the swing of things? Follow these seven tips to support your children as they begin a new calendar year at school.
Return to Bedtime Routines
Although parents may let their kids stay up late or sleep in during special occasions (like winter break), they should transition to their regular sleep patterns before returning to school. That’s because quality, consistent sleep is essential to your child’s ability to learn.
In the days before classes start, move bedtime back by 15- 30 minutes each night until you’re back to their sleep normal schedule. The AASM recommends the following sleep amounts for children and teens:
- Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
- Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
- Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
- Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
- Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours
Create a Back-to-School Countdown
Lazy days spent relaxing in pajamas seem to abruptly stop once school starts again. Ease the transition back to class, especially for younger kids, by creating a visual countdown for the last days of winter break. That way, the different routine won’t creep up completely out of the blue. Older kids can enter the date on their personal calendars, letting them track how much more freedom they can enjoy.
Discuss The Year Ahead
Before school starts in the fall, it’s a great idea to chat with your child about expectations for the year ahead. After winter break, parents might presume their children won’t need the same amount of preparation, since teachers and classes largely remain the same. But some things will change in the new year. Talking through any worries or concerns can help them feel more confident. Older kids and teens might want to set some goals they can work toward.
Celebrate Their First Week Back
Returning to school after a fun-filled winter break can feel a little disappointing. Help soften the blow by organizing something special to celebrate the completion of their first week back. Some examples: a movie night, special play date, dinner at their favorite restaurant, a board game, or bowling. When the routine feels tedious, they can look forward to the upcoming treat!
Make Your Mornings Easier
School mornings can be hectic, especially if kids have gotten used to moving at a slower pace during the holidays. Make the before-school hours run smoothly by prepping in advance. For example:
- Ask kids to organize and pack their school supplies and backpacks before they go to bed.
- Prepare for breakfast and lunches the night before.
- Lay out clothing options.
- Plan to leave a 10-minute buffer to avoid being late on the first day back.
Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Just as you might not look forward to your own daily grind after winter break, it’s normal for kids to have mixed feelings, too. They might be eager to see their friends and their teacher—or they might feel anxious and apprehensive about the situation. Both reactions are normal and valid. Encourage kids to voice their feelings and listen with patience. When children feel heard, they’re more likely to share their feelings and worries. Act as a safe space, and let your kindness help them muster the courage needed to face the challenges of the day.