After a fun, carefree summer away from responsibilities, the transition back to school can be a tough one. Just like adults, kids need time to get acquainted and comfortable with a new routine, and school routines vary depending on a child’s age, whether they are entering school for the first time or returning to a familiar school.
As a pediatrician, the main areas I recommend parents focus on are sleep, nutrition and hygiene, all of which can have an impact on your child’s performance in school and throughout the day, regardless of your child’s stage of schooling.
To help every child and family ease into the school year, try incorporating these tips two to three weeks before the first day of classes.
Sleep is extremely important to ensure kids are well-rested for those long school days. Get into a nighttime routine at least a week or so prior to school and even have your child start waking up, getting washed, and dressed and having breakfast within the timeframe when school starts so it’s not a surprise on the first day.
For 4-6 year olds, mornings can be a great time to practice and work on motor skills such as putting on clothing properly, doing up buttons, snaps and zippers. Leave ample time for your child to learn and feel the accomplishment of doing it himself. School is a new experience for these kids. Take the time to talk about how they feel about starting school and what they can expect. Here are a few other tips:
All those stuffed animals and toys can be used for more than playtime. Role play with your kids and their stuffed animals in a make believe school or classroom setting to model what school will be like.
Use the summer to help prepare young kids from being away from home and parents for the day. Playdates at a friend’s house are a great way to transition to being at school away from you for the day.
Check with your school to see if you can stop by earlier to show your child the classroom and building, and possibly meet the teacher to help familiarize your child with new surroundings.
Most young kids like back-to-school events because they are fun-filled days when they get to reunite with friends they may not have seen over the summer.
Sleep remains important and parents should aim for kids to get 10-11 hours of sleep. It can be challenging for kids to fall asleep when it’s still warm and bright outside at bedtime, even though summer begins to wind down. Close blinds and curtains so the room is dark, and create a cool environment by moderating the A/C or turning on fans.
For both parents and kids, bedtime is a great way to spend one-on-one time together and talk about what happened that day. As kids begin to master their reading, it’s also a wonderful time to practice together and help kids to drift off to sleep easier.
Introduce the regular practice of eating breakfast. Providing one or two options to serve in the morning may help ensure they eat a healthy breakfast that will hold them over until lunch.
Kids become very active during this period and a routine is essential to help them manage school work with after school activities, sports, and spending time with friends.
A week before school opens, establish a consistent bedtime and night routine, including setting time limits to turn off the TV, shutting down the computer and putting away mobile electronics.
Kids are at an age where they can start making decisions, so empower them to do this. Work with them to get as much organized at night as possible, which will avoid a rushed morning. Encourage them to set out clothes the night before and even prep lunch and any snacks they need to bring for the day so they can quickly dress and go.
Hygiene is important as puberty starts to take hold. As you begin to compile a back-to-school shopping list, include shower and skincare products that the whole family can use such as a mild cleanser (the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar), shampoo and conditioner. This is also good age to introduce an antiperspirant.
School year musts for happy and healthy year
Check with the school nurse on school policy for OTC medication, especially if your child has seasonal allergies
Have a sick day plan and map out who can pick up your child if they get sick while at school, or if they need to stay home for the day
Encourage homework to be done right after school when kids are the most focused and motivated with information fresh in their minds
Strive for family meals as a social time together to have meaningful conversations about what is happening at school and talk through any issues or accomplishments