Getting Kids Ready For Back-to-School: The Work/Life Balance Guide

It happens every year – just as parents and children start to settle in to the summer holidays, the Back to School adverts start popping up, and the new autumn term is suddenly upon us. Perhaps you are one of those looking forward to returning to a regular routine. On the other hand, maybe your heart is sinking at the thought of shopping for supplies, packed lunches, homework and bedtime battles, or perhaps you are trying not to think about it at all yet…

Whatever the case, we hope you have enjoyed and are continuing to make the most of the summer break. As many families in the UK and Ireland are counting down the days and readjusting to the school routine, we share our tips on making the transition as painless as possible for busy working lawyers.

#1 Gradually Bring Back the Sleep Routine

One of the joys of summer is long bright evenings, allowing extra hours of outside playtime for our children. Many of us are happy to push the usual bedtime back an hour or so, if only to avoid the inevitable protestations of not being able to sleep while the sun is still shining! The downside, however, comes when trying to reintroduce a good sleep routine for when a day of concentration at school is required. Sleep deprivation is a serious matter for children – according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children aged 6-12 need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep every night, and around a third of children in this age group get just eight hours or fewer. A lack of sleep can have a significant impact on children’s abstract thinking/creative ability, and have even been linked to long term effects on physical and mental health, including obesity, diabetes and depression.

So, getting into a good sleep routine is important, and should be done sooner rather than later. Commit to gradually bringing forward the bedtime night by night. If you have time off work towards the end of the holidays, try to set activities to start earlier on in the day, giving you all a reason to get up and go to bed at a good hour. Here are some more tips on instilling and sticking to a good sleep routine for children from neurologist Shelley Weiss and other parents of school-age children.

#2 Don’t Put off the Back-to-School Shopping

When it comes to back to school shopping, we are spending more every year. On average, parents spend £134 per child on school uniform, according to research by Mintel, and that cost can rise to nearly £500 when adding sports equipment, computer equipment, lunches, and this does not even include school trips and other activities. Last minute shopping trips usually end up being more expensive, so it pays to organise smaller trips, one for each category of things you need through the holidays, instead of leaving it all towards the end. Better planning means you don’t end up buying things you don’t really need. Staggering the shopping is also a better experience for everyone, and can be planned around other activities during the day, particularly when done online. All in all, a calmer shop is a more efficient and cost effective one. Shake off the dread and look forward to picking up some shiny new supplies, knowing you won’t be wondering where all the cash for your summer travels went. You can also make plans to be more economical and environmentally friendly for this year and beyond – here are some tips for zero-waste back to school shopping.

#3 Set Goals for the Year with Your Children

This is a particularly good piece of advice for those with children who don’t always look forward to school. Facing into the school year can seem long and daunting after many weeks of freedom, so give them a focus. Setting goals doesn’t have to mean rigid academic targets – in fact it is often better that it doesn’t. Talk to your children about what they want to get out of the school year – it may be something  like playing more sport, or speaking more in class, or finishing a particular reading book, or simply identifying  the activity or subject that makes them happiest. Talk to them about the things they are looking forward to most, and the least. This will prepare you for any potential areas that require more encouragement or additional help long term. It also helps them establish a better understanding of themselves and their strengths, their likes and dislikes. Here is some further advice from familylives.org.uk on helping children navigate the learning and social environments of school.

#4 Talk to Teachers – and Other Parents Too

If as a working parent you are starting to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of a new school year, be it as a first time school parent, a newly-returned to work school parent, a parent with children facing exams, or any other unknown, it may help to set up a brief meeting with the teacher early on in the year to put your mind at ease. Teachers are equally pressed for time, but they want the best for children as their pupils and may appreciate the opportunity to address any concerns or questions early on. Additionally or alternatively, talk to parents who may share your worries, or seek out those that have skin in the game and can offer advice and insight to what lies ahead. Join your local school group on social media, or look up school-related forums on parenting websites to get a range of perspectives and ask questions you may not feel comfortable asking directly.

Finally, the first day back at school is always a nervous and exciting time for children. Where possible, make use of flexible working/holiday/time in lieu to dedicate time and attention to them on the day before and first day back. And don’t forget to plan some well-earned time to yourself!