As we wind down from the Christmas festivities, encouraging calm after the sugar rush, and as Santa returns to the North Pole, we begin to focus on the widely anticipated return to our normal day-to-day family life, whether that is back to work, school or crèche. Although we may have sustained some form of routine in between family visiting and staying up late, the true testament is putting those daily routines and that structure back. It’s very natural and normal for both parents and children to feel tired and irritable after the Christmas break, and that can trigger all kinds of behaviours- big and small. So, how can we help each other out through routines to maintain a calm and happy house?
As we near the first day back to work, crèche and school, it’s all about dusting off the lunch boxes and school bags. We know it can often take those initial few days after a busy break to get into the swing of it again, so take your time and allow you and your child that space to readjust. Allow a couple of hours before your first day of work and school to organise lunches and bags, and prep uniforms and outfits - all of this can take huge pressure off the night before.
If your child has had a lot of late nights and you are lucky enough that they have been sleeping in, they have simply shifted their routine. As we know, this will take a few days to get back on track and it's really no different for adults, either. I would often suggest to families to tweak the times of waking the children up with a purpose to getting out and about in the mornings a few days before returning to school/crèche. It’s more likely they will be tired that evening! Remember, though, to catch the signs of tiredness both at naptimes and bedtime for babies and toddlers, so look out for yawning, red or watery eyes, and being cranky or irritable. Often the later we leave bedtime, the more tired our littles ones get; it’s so common that they can hit a wall of tiredness and all of a sudden a new lease of life comes over them, ready to take on the night! This is usually the time when they find it really hard to settle to sleep. Keeping a regular bedtime with a story and wind-down can be a great comfort and a happy finish to a busy day.
If your toddler or young child is anticipating that moment of saying goodbye to you - whether it is that first morning back in crèche or at the school gates - this is so very natural and normal, particularly if they have had some lovely times with you over the holidays. I often find it helpful to start mentioning crèche or school to the kids again a couple of days before returning: chat about keyworkers, teachers and pals - children love to know what’s happening, so the more we bring these little chats into the days running up, the more they take comfort in their return. Even consider packing a little something in their bag, like a picture that’s meaningful to them - that way, they can mind it for you until they see you later in the day or that evening. Resettling is just building on old habits and routines – children will embrace them.
We all know that it’s great to connect with our children as much as we can, but when we are focused on getting from A to B we can often miss out on opportunities. If we build little connection rituals into our routine, they become habit. Try a snuggle with each child when you first see them in the morning, or a "recognition" ritual when you're first reunited like ‘morning morning’ - whatever feels right for you.
A good healthy structure creates predictability and consistency, something our children cope very well with. Routines help children manage change as well as their willingness to cooperate. The more they know what’s happening next, the happier they will be. Children really do thrive on routine, and once they are used to a certain way of doing things they will be more likely to slip back into that way - and sooner than we think!