Back to School — Transition Tips for the Whole Family

Get your kids in gear and ready for school! 

As we enter into our first post Circuit Breaker phase, the reopening of schools requires parents to make swift lifestyle adjustments, a daunting task especially with multiple children and various school schedules. Your children will also need time and space to readjust to school-based learning. For some, this transition will be filled with as much anxiety as the first day of the school year. Here are some tips to help your family experience a smooth back-to-school transition, in the new normal.

How you can prepare your children

The impending return to full-time, face-to-face learning in schools is an exciting time for students and, no doubt, a blessed relief for many parents and carers. Many children are looking forward to seeing friends and their favourite teachers. For others, adjusting back to regular school schedules and returning to their social environment after almost two months of home-based learning (HBL) can be overwhelming. Regardless of how your child is feeling, here are some tips from us. 

1. Establish a routine 

Establish regular back-to-school routines to ease your child in.
This is the perfect time to adjust your child into a back-to-school routine which includes tweaking bedtimes and daytime activities according to regular school hours. This also allows you to establish your own schedule so you can make time to support the needs of your child. 
A fun way to inspire your little ones back into new school routines is with music! Start by creating a fun morning playlist with their favourite songs, and dedicate a good habit or task to each song such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, or even while having breakfast.This will not only help keep your child on track, it will ensure they start the day off on a cheery note.
With the increased usage of online learning platforms since the start of HBL and plenty more to come, gradually reducing screen time can help enhance your child’s sleep quality, reduce anxiety, boost attention span, and even their performance at school. Replace screen time with tactile learning and creative play at home, such as science experiments, puzzles, arts and craft, physical activity, as well as singing and reading. 
Beyond learning platforms, get ready for homework loads to change as well. So introduce a designated time and space for homework, break up the period into 30-minute sessions, and sit with them so these tasks become more manageable for them.
Last but not least, conquer new timetables by adjusting your child’s sleep and meal timings accordingly. This means shifting bedtimes 15 minutes earlier at each adjustment, and keeping to that time for two to three days before the next change. This way, their body clock can adjust naturally.

2. Groom confidence and good personal hygiene 

A fresh haircut can instantly boost your child’s confidence.

Besides reminding your children about good hygiene practices such as washing their hands regularly, it is important they understand the reasons why they have to wear a mask when in school and in the classroom. By now they would have gotten used to the idea of wearing a mask when out in public, but keeping it on for the entire day even while indoors can be a challenge.
Observe how your child reacts when they are wearing a mask. If they consistently adjust it or complain that it’s hot or have difficulty breathing, consider opting for more comfortable options such as a face shield, or cotton face masks which are more breathable and easier on the skin. Ear ties on masks might hurt their ears when worn for a long period, so opt for slightly larger masks, cotton ear ties, or fix the ear ties to buttons sewn on headbands. It will also help to soothe skin irritation by applying moisturiser or petroleum jelly on the back of their ears.
After you’ve got the essentials covered, boost your kid’s confidence and excitement for school by getting them a fresh haircut. To avoid the crowds at hairdressers, you could opt to do a simple trim for your child at home.
For boys, use a clipper to shave around the ears, back of the neck and sideburns to create cleaner lines. For girls, run a fine-tooth comb along their hair to remove tangles and divide their hair into two sections, left and right. Next, hold the bottom of one section and use a pair of scissors to trim a neat line. Now, repeat on the other side and compare both sides to ensure they are as even as possible. 

3. Managing expectations

Ease back-to-school anxiety by focusing on the positive aspects of school.

Going from free and flexible learning at home to a new and rigid classroom setting can be stressful for your child, especially when school timetables will now be altered to accommodate smaller groups of students.
To get your child excited about going back to school, encourage them to talk about what they look forward to when returning back to the classroom such as meeting friends, favourite subjects or exciting events to come. If parents show positivity, their children will most likely mimic the same excitement about school.
After school begins, start daily reflections about their feelings with open questions such as: What was your favourite and least favourite part of school today? What was the best thing you learnt today? Who did you talk to today? Who did you help today? 
You may not know the right ‘solution’ that could help your child deal with the transition, but by being there and making your child feel comfortable to share their concerns, you can help them feel more secure when confronting the changes.

4. Nourish minds

Empower your child to meal prep and nourish their mind and body!

One positive impact the Circuit Breaker has had on our lifestyle is that it has encouraged some of us to start cooking our own meals. To avoid the weekday rush, plan weekly meals and make grocery runs before the school week begins.
Home cooking is the best way to ensure your family has a healthier diet. Try to involve your kids in preparing healthy snacks for school and empower them to learn how eating right can enhance their immune system. Share healthy reminders with them such as "eat the colors of the rainbow” during meals, and cook with colourful yet immune-boosting vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, oranges, and kiwis to reinforce the message.

How to prepare yourself

It can be challenging to keep it together as a parent especially when work and school schedules collide. With the kids back at school, it might be helpful to use the extra time for stress-relief, hobbies, exercise or simply catching up on sleep. Let’s explore how we can use organisation hacks and self-care to handle back-to-school transitions with ease.

1. Get organised

A to-do list gets things out of your head so you don’t expend energy trying to recall tasks.

With staggered school timings between children, fetching them to and from school can become confusing. Make sure you mark such tasks on your smartphone calendar and you’ll never miss the important moments. In fact, a digital family organiser (like the free version of the Cozi app which offers shared calendars, lists, and a journal the whole family can access and update) can come in really handy with staggered school hours, especially if you have more than one kid. This allows you to keep track of various schedules, plan pick-up times, plus organise help in advance. 
Lists will also come in handy during hectic mornings when you are trying to get the kids dressed, prepare breakfast and rush them to school all at once. Have them lay their uniforms out and pack their backpacks the night before to avoid the morning rush. This way you can enjoy breakfast as a family, and send your kids off with a hug every morning rather than rushing them out the door.
If you want to ensure an efficient morning routine, hold a few morning and evening practice runs with your little “team” a few days before school reopens.

2. Stay active 

Short and flexible workouts help parents boost fitness effectively.

With the reopening of schools and child care centres, take advantage of whatever time you’ve freed up to keep fit. We must remember that keeping fit as a parent benefits both you and your family. 
Workouts don’t need to be long to be effective. Go for short High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to gain results such as muscle toning, fat burning and increased endurance. At 20 to 30 minutes, HIIT provides similar benefits to a longer workout even when performed at home. Alternatively, if you don’t have the luxury of time, try breaking up your workout into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day for equally effective results. If you need guidance, take advantage of the rich variety of free workout videos on Youtube or find some workout inspiration here
Finally, make sure to plan family workouts or yoga sessions at home during evenings and weekends, so you can always stay active and inspire your kids to do the same!

3. Have your own support system

A visit to your parents’ can provide the emotional support you need.

We often forget that parents need as much emotional support as children do. Beyond scheduling regular heart-to-heart calls with friends, take this chance to get your parents involved by calling and telling them about your day. You could also consider visiting once a week now that home visits are allowed. Not only do you get to savour mum’s best dishes, you can lean on them for comfort. 
Finally, you might be able to find support in other parents who are going through the same experiences. Set-up a parent WhatsApp group with a few parents from your child’s class to share daily inspiration, school updates, as well as useful parenting hacks and resources. 
With good planning, self-care and plenty of positivity, you and your children can navigate these uncertain times with greater ease. We hope you and your family will be more ready to embrace the new challenges that come with the post Circuit Breaker phases. Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a smooth and enjoyable back-to-school transition.