Parents, it’s that time of year again: the phrase ‘back to school’ has been echoing around your house for the past couple of weeks – and now the new term has finally arrived.
After a long summer holiday, and with last year being largely disrupted due to the pandemic, school routine may feel a little alien to you and your teen.
But whether your teen is about to embark on their IGCSE, GCSE, IB or A Level journey, a large part of their success will be determined by their academic schedule and habits. And the best time to instill those positive habits is right now, as the school year kicks off.
Here are our tried-and-tested strategies to help you and your teen build and maintain an effective family routine for the school term time. All you need to do is try them out and see what works best for your family this autumn.
The start of a new term means re-adjusting to a term-time sleep schedule. Suddenly switching from a 1am bedtime and 1pm wake-up to a 10pm bedtime and 7am wake-up will send a teen’s body into jet-lag mode – and will take a little while to get used to!
To help make the transition smooth, encourage the whole family to go to bed a little earlier and wake up a little earlier each day until you reach a good routine. A change of just 10 minutes per day could have an incredibly positive impact.
If getting out of bed in the mornings is the tough part, incentivise everyone with a trip out for breakfast (leaving early!) or a morning family dog walk.
If your teen protests that it’s ‘impossible’ for them to fall asleep at a normal hour, you might want to make these suggestions:
- Remove phones, laptops and iPads from the bedroom by 9pm
- Eat dinner by 8pm, with no snacks or drinks after this point (apart from water or caffeine-free teas)
- Exercise in the mornings to help wake up the body
- Try yoga or a bath to calm down in the evenings
- Cut down on coffee, tea and energy drinks during the day
- Make sure to get outside and exposed to plenty of natural light everyday
If school mornings in your house are usually chaotic, with things often forgotten and tensions running high, you might want to introduce checklists for each member of the family. This will take the stress out of the morning, as everyone will know exactly what they need to do, and they’ll be prepared in advance.
For example, an evening checklist might have the following items:
- Make lunch for tomorrow
- Iron school shirt
- Put textbooks in bag
- Organise PE kit
- Top up travel card
- Charge laptop and phone
- Check homework
And a morning checklist might look like this:
- Feed cats
- Eat breakfast
- Pack schoolbag
- Brush teeth
- Fill water bottle
- Lock front door
These checklists will also help teens to develop independence and responsibility.
From the very first week back at school, set high expectations for homework and academic performance. Make sure that your teen has an area in the house where they can work undisturbed, and encourage them to get their homework done within the first few hours of getting back from school (ideally before dinner time).
Parents can model this responsible attitude to work by staying away from phone and television until they have completed their own tasks (either work tasks or domestic jobs) for the day, and by being proactive in getting tasks done ahead of schedule.
Show a real interest in what your child is learning about at school, and encourage them to discuss their homework with you whenever possible.
If you’re not already subscribed to Save My Exams, now is the ideal time to purchase our annual membership. This will give your teen on-demand access to all of our top-rated study and practice materials for their STEM subjects.
Carving out some time each week (or month) to reflect on and set personal goals is another really valuable activity to incorporate into your family’s routine.
The process of goal-setting helps to motivate and inspire, and it can also boost self esteem if successes are properly celebrated and acknowledged.
The goals could be academic (e.g. improving a grade average by 10%) or non-academic (not getting a single late mark, joining the swim team, making a healthy lunch every day) but they should be realistic, achievable, measurable.
Remember: don’t put too much pressure on your family to perfect all of these suggestions overnight – these are supposed to be ideas which you gradually incorporate into your lifestyle.
Let us know how you get on! If you have any questions, or you’d like to share some of your family’s own top tips for establishing a successful back-to-school routine, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or messaging us on social media – @SaveMyExams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram..