Getting Back Into the Routine!

As children (and adults) get back into the routine of being at school, they go through an adjustment period, which can show itself in a variety of ways including big feelings, tantrums, withdrawal, opposition, and difficulty sleeping. Here are some ways you can support your child as they adjust after being out of the classroom for the past 6 months.


  • Get back into a healthy sleep routine: When we were out of school for so long, it was easier to let bedtimes get late and allow children to sleep in. Usually bedtimes can only be successfully adjusted about 15 minutes at a time, so try to start creeping your child’s bedtime a little earlier each week. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleeping amounts by age:
    • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
    • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
    • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Support your child to develop an independent morning routine: Over time, we can support our children to become responsible for getting themselves ready for school. This can seem like more work for a parent on the front end, but ultimately leads to easier mornings for parents and children.
    • Involve your child in creating a simple visual reminder of all the tasks they can do independently each morning. It can be a handmade chart, a booklet, a set of hand drawn cards… it doesn’t have to be fancy, printed, or laminated!
    • Even if your child is not yet doing these tasks independently, you can model how to reference the chart to find the next task (For example – “I have gotten my clothes on, now what’s the next thing I need to take care of? Oh, my chart says I need to brush my teeth. I will go do that now.”)
    • With time, you can start handing off some of those tasks to be done without your help (For example – “I see you finished breakfast. What does your chart say to do next? Get dressed? Okay, go choose your outfit and I will be there in just a moment to help if you need it.”)
  • Set aside special connection time: One of the silver linings of the prolonged school closures was the extra time spent together as a family. While children are excited and happy to be back in the social environments of school, they also are simultaneously grieving the loss of all that family time (maybe some of you are going through that, as well!). Try to build in time for connecting in the way that is most special to you and your child right when they get home from school. Even just 10 minutes of undivided connection time goes a long way!
  • Listening to their feelings: Just like adults, children have so many mixed feelings during this transition back to campus! They might be excited to be back but also nervous about viral exposure. They haven’t interacted and shared with others in many months and might feel frustrated with their social interactions. They might feel sad about missing their parents, grandparents, or siblings. Allow children time and space to be heard. You don’t have to solve problems for them or make big feelings go away; as parents and guardians, we are simply containers for their feelings – ALL of their feelings – and provide a safe place to process those emotions.
  • Expect changes in behavior: Children often exhibit changes in behavior when there are changes in the environment. Set firm boundaries, but also try to be understanding and patient as they work through the stress of transitioning back. Communicate clearly about what your expectations are, and make sure that you are building in time for connection, as that can have a large positive impact during difficult times.
  • Wean off the increased screen time: We have all read about how too much screen time can negatively impact a child’s development…. But, we are in a pandemic! And just had our children home for 6 months straight! While simultaneously trying to do our own jobs from home! So yeah, most kids have been having more screen time than usual… which is understandable and absolutely okay. However, now that your child is back in school, it is going to help them tremendously if you taper their screen usage, as it will help get them into a better emotional place to handle the change and transition. Talk to your child about why the screen time rules are changing, so that they can become self-aware and more invested in the process. Eventually, it would be ideal to limit school-day screen time to be between 0 and 30 minutes total per day.