I climbed quietly down the stairs, hoping in vain that I was mistaken. Were my two stepsons really doing what I thought they were? "Boys? You know we don't watch that show in this house, and we agreed that your back-to-school bedtimes would be 9 p.m." They stared me down. I raised my eyebrows innocently and made an attempt at empathy. "I know it's a change from the summer routine at your mom's." How can they go so long without blinking? I wondered, but I held my ground. Finally, my younger stepson hit the power button and sulked off toward his bed, big brother trailing behind.
The school year is all about routines and schedules. It's about having a reason for a reasonable bedtime. And after a summer of fun in the sun, it's hard. It can be even harder for a blended family, especially one where some or all of the children have spent the summer in other households, living with a different set of routines and rules. While change will always provide challenges, there are things we can do to ease into a new school year:
Give them time
If possible, plan for a weeklong adjustment period before school starts. This will allow everyone to gradually become accustomed to his or her place in the family before tackling the demands of the school year.
In the classroom, expectations will be set early and posted for all to see. Consider implementing lists at home, as well. Children do well with written schedules, and most love to check tasks off a list.
Use a "best practices" approach
Sometimes, the adults in the other household strike parenting gold. A simple question like, "What worked best for you in the other home?" will not only keep you from reinventing the wheel, but it will also provide the continuity that allows your children to thrive. There are times when it's OK to do something "the way we do it at my mom's house." If it's reasonable, and not contrary to the standards of your household, try bending a little.