by Jamie Bonnema
With the first day of school approaching, most of us are wondering where the summer went, yet again. We may be even be ready or anxiously awaiting a “normal” routine for the kids and ready for their days to be more structured. Whether you are looking forward to the new school year routine to begin or dreading the approaching day, there are ways to help the transition go more smoothly. Having a smoother start to the school year with a consistent plan will help set the tone for what you want the rest of the year to look like. Here are some helpful tips to consider when getting ready for that first day:
Commit to a scheduled bedtime and wake time a week prior to school starting. The body needs time to adjust to a different sleep cycle in order to fully take advantage of the sleeping hours. This doesn’t happen overnight, rather it happens with consistency. The same is true with teaching the body a new time to be awake and alert. Give yourselves some time to get used to the new schedule at both ends.
Plan and practice the new morning routine in the days leading up to your first day. Include any changes that would improve on last year’s routine. Practicing the new routine when you are not under pressure will help your family feel a bit less stressed when the time actually comes for the bus to show up or everyone to be loaded in the car to be early to school.
Don’t overlook the night-before-tasks! A lot of times we forget that many things can be done the night before to set the stage for a successful morning. Some of these things may include picking out the outfit (yes, even laying out the exact uniform appropriate for the weather report), organizing backpacks, shoes, and boots, getting forms and planners signed, and planning the sack lunch if needed. Other bedtime components may include bedtime devotions, prayer, and tuck-ins which help provide a stable, peaceful nighttime routine—a great lead-in to the morning routine.
Have a breakfast plan. Oftentimes the morning seems crazy busy, and breakfast is the first compromise. If you’re not the get up two hours before the kids type of person try these ideas: Prepare foods in bulk in advance and store in the freezer in single serving portions—pancakes, protein bites, muffins, parfaits, or cheesy hash browns and ham. Keep fresh fruit stocked on your breakfast table. Pick a day or days you are making hot fresh breakfast and keep the other days low-key. Have the kids have their flexible plan for the next day—grab a parfait from the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw overnight, for example. The goal is to give your family one less thing to be stressed about in the morning and one more thing to start their day well.
Be determined to have a great attitude approaching the first day and every morning thereafter. Our attitudes will be reflected in our kids. Facing the morning with joy (even if not a morning person, like me) is one of the best things we can do because everything from small hiccups to major problems will naturally happen. Joy alleviates the severity of the bumps. Not every problem should be confronted in the moment and not every problem should be dealt with later. Discerning between the two is so tricky, so give yourself grace and pray for wisdom. Aim for joy in everything, be neutral when you have to confront a situation, and make a commitment to never escalate a situation at the start of the day. Let’s leave our kids (and spouses) with kisses on their cheeks—not tears—ready to pass on that joy in the next part of their day.
Pray with your family before you go your separate ways. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Inviting God into our day, at the beginning of the day, is a wonderful way to set our minds straight on where our help comes from, who our blessings flow from, and where to place our hope in our unknown future. It’s a wonderful opportunity to pray for protection over our minds for truth, protection over our bodies wherever we need to be for the day, and wisdom for all the interactions that are taking place. It is another moment of connection with our families and building our bond with God at the center. We cannot know all the events that will take place in the day, but we do know that we have the ability to put our trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty over everything.
Jamie Bonnema is a former youth treatment counselor for residential care, education, and wilderness programs. She is a married mother of four children, works from home with a nutrigenomics company, and loves spending time outdoors.