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The holidays are a welcome break for all of us, and for children they most often include longer lie-ins and later nights up due to festive activities. However, as the festivities die down and the new school term approaches, parents begin thinking about how to re-establish a healthy routine for their children. Luckily, rather than praying for one final Christmas miracle before the kids’ first school day, there are some practical tips to help you and your children kick-off the new term positively.

It’s good to note that the shift in routine that accompanies the holiday season may bring with it jet-lag-like symptoms for both adults and children. On the bright side, this means that similarly to jet-lag, there are a number of simple ways to help your child’s mind and body get back to a healthy routine.

  • Prepare your child. Use the last couple of nights before school starts to explain to your child that they will soon be returning to school. This will help as they will not be caught off guard when the day arrives and it would be even more helpful to reinforce the child’s early bedtime a few nights before school starts as it will help their bodies readjust to the new sleeping pattern.
  • Slow down in the evening & make the best use of the mornings. It’s important to let our minds and bodies know that it is time to rest, especially with children, who may not yet realise this on their own. A healthy and calming evening routine can include a warm bath, dimming the lights and switching off the TV about an hour before bedtime. Reading a story alone or together in a quiet, tidy bedroom may also help children drift off.

When morning comes, make use of natural light as much as possible to help the children wake up. If the weather and time permits, a short walk or some exercise in the morning can also boost energy levels.

  • Set a good example. Children tend to observe and model their parents’ behaviour more than we realise. It would be beneficial for the child to see their parents also changing their sleeping pattern and sleeping/waking up early with them a few days before the holidays end.

Although taking such precautions can ease the process of returning to the school routine, it is still understandable that your child may have a meltdown when they are given the news that they have to wake up early in the coming days. This may be due to the fact that they will miss the time spent together or having to accept that the holiday season is over. Giving your child some extra love and allowing them to vent their frustration, while reinforcing that they will still have to return to school, might also prevent any meltdowns when the day arrives.

Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.