Normally, (anyone remember normal? Anyone?) we’d enthusiastically congratulate you on making it to the back-to-school season. We’d talk basic transitions and growth and independence. But all that usually comes with certainty, right? A definitive start date, a regular Monday to Friday schedule, car pool and daycare plans secured. But no, we’re topping off a summer of chaos with a fall back down to who-knows-where. But, believe it or not, there are some things you can do to make this super very extra weird and hard time a bit easier to navigate.
We doubt you’ve kept all the same routines and habits you had pre-COVID. Maybe some of what you or your child picked up during quarantine are purely coping mechanisms, maybe some of it snuck up on you as you eased into life at home. Either way, now’s the time to turn off auto-pilot. We’re breaking down what you can do now to prepare your child and yourself for a back-to-something-sort-of-sometimes routine.
Wake up early
Oof. Ok, we saved the worst for first. Chances are you’ve slipped a bit on the morning routine seeing as how we wear t-shirts all day and don’t eat breakfast until 9:30. But this step is most important. If you start getting them up earlier now, by the time they have to do it every day, both of your lives will be so much easier. Because the very last thing anyone needs right now is a cranky child on top of a worldwide pandemic! Think about what else you need to adjust for this. An earlier bedtime? A breakfast meal plan? Plan or cook it the night before so they feel included. You can draw up or cook the breakfast if it’s reheatable in the morning.
Talk about it
We all know how fond children are of change. That’s to say that, well, they hate it. And there’s been so much of it lately that they may feel at capacity right now. Being as communicative as possible about this transition is going to help them cope and offer a bit of stability. Remind them that you and your family are still and will always be here for them, and while lots of other things change and keep changing, you’re doing it together. A good way to do this is to have an official family meeting, which shows that you value everyone’s input. Here, you can talk about what they liked and didn’t like about quarantine and outline what your new schedules will look like. Point out what stayed the same, like their bed (and the lovies around it) or their favorite toy.
This is also a crucial time to revisit new safety protocols, like mask wearing, social distancing as much as possible, hygiene and virus testing procedures. Explain that it won’t always be like this, which is why it’s extra important to take these new rules seriously now. Because when we do, it means staying safe and healthy so we can keep seeing our friends and get back to normal sooner.
Make the plan
Consider things like how you’re going to up the value of your quality family time. What’s something everyone enjoys that you can do together once or twice a week? Can you designate a day for that? What are some incentives to keep everyone looking forward to a new schedule instead of dreading it? Is it pizza and ice cream night? Can you make the pizza or ice cream to make it more engaging? Also think about other forms of socialization. You could plan regular Zoom parties with your child’s friends or Facetimes with Grandma.
For you: Reflect
Take some time to think about what has changed in your routine during quarantine. Did you begin taking more time for self-care? Did you get more creative with family activities? Did you consume far too much caffeine? Start deciding which new habits you want to keep and how you can make room for them in a more normalized schedule. In turn, remember the things you tried that didn’t work. Were your goals at the beginning of the shut-down a little lofty? It’s a great time to come back down to earth and quit planning for those 6 homemade meals a week.
Think about yourself
While not in every case, kids going back to school often means parents going back to work. If you’re upping your work hours or even going back into an office, that could bring its own set of anxieties. What do you need to do to feel more comfortable in that setting? It could mean taking on new ways to deal, like breathing exercises, meal prepping, therapy or even something as simple as voicing any concerns to your HR department so they can put you at ease. It might help to make a list of things in your control like break times and people you can go to for support.
Get in the zone
What motivates or inspires you? It could be a favorite author or blogger (hi), a friend, an Instagram account, a Facebook group, workout, podcast, baking - anything at all. Know what resonates with you so you can come back to it when you’re overwhelmed and use it now to mentallly gear up. Kids are wild - don’t you know it - and it’s hard to predict how all these transitions are going to go. Don’t assume it’ll be easy but don’t expect the worst either. Remember how much you’ve done in the last 5 months - it’s a lot. It’s way more than you should have been asked to do, but you’ve done it.
And frankly, now you can do anything.