“Back to school, back to school…” Adam Sandler iconized the phrase in “Billy Madison”. But what does “back to school” really mean for some couples, especially those couples with children? For some, this is a long awaited reprieve from the carefree days of summer when their children have copious amounts of free time and relaxed bedtimes. Other couples, those who may be returning to school for continuing education or those who are school employees, may find there’s far less free time for all the fun things in a relationship, like travel and leisure time together. Even those individuals without children or without a partner in the school systems have certainly noticed the increase in the traffic around rush hour as school zones take hold of the once school bus-less streets.
No matter which side of the coin you find yourself on, chances are the arrival of a new school year is felt in your family. Those of you with teenagers may be struggling to understand why your teen finds it necessary to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, only to fight with you on an early wake up for the first day of school. Turns out, they’re wired that way: the National Sleep Foundation found that teens typically cannot fall asleep before 11 pm. Frustrations with teens, rushed mornings, and a readjustment to old or new routines can cause stress in relationships.
Many couples I work with look for ways to manage the stress of returning to school (either themselves or their children). Something I always recommend is to get on a schedule. Kids (not to mention adults too) thrive off of routines and having a stable routine can increase a child’s success, both academically and emotionally. Additionally, having a schedule helps keep you and your partner on track and can limit minor disagreements, like who’s going to pick up the kids after school or daycare and who’ll be responsible for dinner. Some couples say they find it impossible to set a schedule, someone is always forgetting or life is simply too chaotic to control. While it may be true, an extremely rigid schedule isn’t going to work for everyone, having some sort of routine even if it’s just waking up at the same time every day can do wonders for family functioning. A positive (notice I mention positive) routine can actually increase your happiness. And chances are if you’re feeling happier, this happiness will rub off on your family members too.
Families run into problems when there is no routine and in essence the lack of routine becomes routine for the family. Late nights lead to rushed mornings, which lead to feelings of frustration and maybe even a hurtful exchange between two or more family members. It may seem simple, but I encourage you and your family to find one routine to stick to this new school year, whether it’s waking up at the same time every day of the week, doing one thing together when the family first gets home or just before going to bed, or even a positive group text message during the day at lunch time. You might find that as the family stress of the school year melts away, so do some relationship stresses as well. Find something the whole family can do and stick with with it for at least two months, not worrying whether or not you complete the task everyday, but trying not to miss more than 2 days in a row.
Of course, if you find yourself and your partner still struggling to get your relationship and your family on a routine, I’m always here to help.