Nudging Your Child Out Of Holiday Mode: Get Them Back On A Schedule & Ready For School

The holidays are a wonderful time for parents and children alike. There are family and friends to see, good food to enjoy, and plenty of free time for play.  And of course, there is no early rising to get ready for school and out the door on time.

But as vacations wind down and life gears back up, children sometimes resist adopting a firm schedule again.

In this post, we offer some tips for helping prepare them for a busy schedule once again. Although these ideas are applicable now, as the winter holiday season ends and a new school term begins again, these ideas work at the end of the summer break, too. Whether you’re dealing with a 10-year-old or a teenager (or both!) these strategies go a long way toward readying them for the busy months that lie ahead.

1. Talk about it in positive terms.

If you let it slip that you, too, are dreading going back to the office after a leisurely Christmas break, your child will mirror that resistance. As we’ve said before, children are sponges, so how you act and feel about gearing up for work will influence their attitude about school and other activities beginning again. Talk about all the things you’re looking forward to – getting up earlier and accomplishing more – and it will likely affect how they feel about the impending change.

2. Prepare them for the new routine days in advance.

Springing it on your child by saying something like, “tomorrow is the start of a new school term!” won’t be well received. Children need time to adapt to change, even to something as familiar as school or a learning center. Several days in advance of when you both have to get going in the morning, set your alarm as you would for work, get your child up too, and have breakfast together at a slow and easy pace. This gets them back into the structure of a set morning schedule without having to head out the door right away. By the time they do have to dress and go to class, they’ll be partially ready for the change and more accepting of it.

3. Let them express their hesitation.

Everyone feels a little reluctant to let go of that special holiday vibe and get back to reality. It’s important that you allow your child to express those feelings too. However, if they’re truly nervous or expressing anxiety about returning to school, find out if there is a deeper issue at play. For example: has your child been on the receiving end of bullying in the school yard, or are they having a problem of another kind? If you sense their apprehension is bigger than it should be, talk it over with them until you get to the root of the problem. Speak with the teacher, principal or guidance counselor if necessary, but don’t stop until you find out the true cause of their anxiety.

4. Talk about the wonderful things that are starting up again.

Getting out of holiday mode doesn’t simply mean returning to work (for you) and school for them. It also signals the resumption of activities your child loves, such as participation in sports teams, art lessons after class, or a new role in the drama club’s upcoming play. Chances are, even if your child isn’t thrilled about going to class at first, they’ll look forward to seeing friends and other students who share their after school interests. You can help with this by expressing how much you’re looking forward to, for example, the start up of your regular fitness classes again. Enthusiasm is catching, so do all you can to express yours for the post-vacation season.

5. Help them create a scrapbook or memory box.

Young children, in particular, sometimes fear that when a holiday ends, they will forget how joyful everyone was at the time. Reassure them that isn’t the case, and reinforce that by creating a treasure chest, so to speak, that they can look at and leaf through when they’re feeling nostalgic for the time the family was together during winter break. Part of the appeal of vacations is their rarity, but giving your child concrete links to those vacations reminds them of how much fun they had, and will again.

6. Ask them where they would like to go for their next holiday.

Tell your child that there are many wonderful places to see and visit, and ask for suggestions on where they might like to go next. Having a future holiday to dream nudges children out of their focus on the just-finished holiday and encourages them to talk about future ones. Show them pictures of places you’ve dreamed of visiting, and they’ll catch the travel bug and begin coming up with destinations they’d like to see.

7. Is their nanny returning from vacation?

Your child will be thrilled to see their nanny again, if they went away during winter break. Keep mentioning their return, and how exciting it will be to hear their tales of their trip, seeing family, and other details. The nanny’s return is a huge, positive part of family life returning to normal, so talk it up!

Focus on all the positive aspects of establishing a daily routine again, and your child is sure to come around quickly, and even look forward to moving on. Sleeping late and having nothing to do gets boring quickly for children of all ages, because they are physically and psychologically designed to be active, engaged and social. Give them several days’ notice before life returns to normal and brace yourself for a few minor complaints. Soon, before you know it, the family’s routine will be humming along in high gear just the way it always does.