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Return to routines: 3 tips for back-to-school

Teacher greeting child

Children thrive on routines! Whether your child’s back-to-school schedule for this atypical school year includes going to school in person, or distance learning at home, returning to some structure can benefit the whole family.

Creating a routine for your child can also help children regulate their emotions. Rashelle Chase from KinderCare’s Education team explains that “children like to plan just as much as adults do because when they know what to expect, they don’t feel powerless or out of control.” With a predictable schedule, your child might have less meltdowns or outbursts because they have a sense of comfort in knowing what’s coming next.

Get back to a steady routine when kids go back to school: 

1. Make a plan 
Talk with your child about their school day and how this year’s back to school activities will be structured differently from the last school year. Work together to come up with ways that you can both ease into the new routine.  
Remember, little things can help create a sense of stability. Even if your child is learning at home and would love to stay in their pajamas all day, something as small as getting dressed in school clothes, and brushing teeth before sitting down to lessons, can signal to a child that it’s time to study.  

2. Take a break 
The things that make school fun for your child (like recess or group projects) often aren’t part of the learn-from-home routine. But there are some things that are easier to do while learning at home, like eat a snack while studying, or fidget with toys during lessons.  

Build breaks into your child’s day to make room for movement, socializing, and fun. Knowing that there will be something enjoyable to look forward to can help your child keep their focus and stay motivated for learning time. A 30-minute outdoor break, video-chat with a friend, or yummy snack can be just what your child needs to release tension, refuel, or connect with peers.  

3. Let it out 
It’s no wonder that everyone is experiencing strong emotions right now: We’re living through a pandemic, national social unrest, an abnormal start to the school year, and even more that we don’t see on the news. We all deserve extra leeway to express the feelings that are swirling and evolving, and that includes kids.  

While adults can contextualize a situation and adjust our reactions, children often haven’t yet mastered those skills, so their reactions to stress might seem random or unwarranted. To make your home a safe space for your child, they need to know they can express their feelings freely, even if it’s not pretty.  

Talk with your child about their feelings and work together on healthy ways to express their emotions. Practice taking three deep breaths together when your child starts to feel their thoughts racing out of control, use a physical activity to vent frustrations, or if your child is old enough, start a journal to write or draw emotions in a safe, private space.  

Above all, be gentle with your child and with yourself. With a bit of planning and practice, you can help each other stay strong this school year. And if you need more support, we’re always here to help
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