Back to School Tips for Parents
How to Get Them (and you) Back into a Normal, Healthy Routine
It’s that time of year. The dog days of summer are winding down. The stores are full of school supplies. And the kids are counting down their final days of “freedom.” It can mean only one thing: it’s time to go back to school!
You may not remember it, but going back to school is a big change for kids. That’s why we’ve put together some tips so you’re ready for the big day instead of bracing for impact.
Start with the sleep schedule
Back to school means a return to regular bedtimes. You should start ramping up the new sleep schedule a couple of weeks before school starts.
“Trying to get children on a better sleep schedule prior to school starting and out of ‘summer mode’ can help the transition,” says Kristen White, MD, a pediatrics specialist at Adena. “We all love staying up late and sleeping in during summer. But starting off on the wrong foot with our sleep hygiene can really make the start to school tough! So try a week or two before school to practice that schedule and help the kids adjust. “
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the following to help children and teens get a restful night's sleep:
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
- Make the bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
- Turn off all electronics about an hour before bedtime.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime.
- Don't eat a big meal before bedtime.
- Avoid vigorous exercise or activity two hours before bedtime.
Re-establish healthy habits
As parents, we let certain things go in the summer. Now that your kids are going to be around large groups again, it’s time to remind them of the proper way to wash their hands.
Have your kids sing the alphabet or the Happy Birthday song to remind them how much time needs to be spent washing their hands. And remind them to scrub the fronts and backs of their hands and in-between fingers. Hand sanitizer is a good alternative when they can’t lather up.
Re-establish healthy eating
The days of noon breakfasts and late-night popsicles are fun, but the end of summer is a great time to refocus on healthy meals. Provide healthier meal options for your kids, especially breakfast. Students who eat breakfast are more alert during class, and the right foods combined with adequate rest can help fight off infections.
Say hello to your doctor
An annual check-up is essential for back-to-school time to make sure kids are healthy and virus-free. Make sure their immunizations and state-required vaccinations are up-to-date, too. Flu vaccines are also a good idea for all school-age children.
Kids are more active in the summer, but it’s important to keep that momentum in the fall. Your kids will be sitting for most of their school day, so adding sports and exercise into their routines will help keep them focused and positive. Whether it’s after-school activities or a family walk, do whatever works to keep your kids moving.
When it comes to beverages, the old-school classics - water and milk - have the most benefits. Hydration will help prevent fatigue, improve mood, aid digestion and maintenance, and enhance brain function. Try to eliminate sugary drinks and caffeine, too. They can increase heart rates and blood pressure, interrupt sleep and cause nervousness and irritability.
Fall means seasonal allergies
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal allergies can affect as many as 40% of children in the US, causing many to miss school. Even if they are in school, allergies can get in the way of a productive day.
Fatigue, headache, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and itchiness can get in the way of attention and concentration. If your child has allergies, talk with your child’s teacher and principal about how to manage them during school.
Calm their fears
Returning to school can be challenging for kids. Depending on their age, they may be dealing with separation anxiety, social anxiety, a fear of not fitting in or feeling the pressure to be the best academically.
You can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety children feel about going back to school by helping them prepare for the school year. Make sure your kids are aware of who their teacher is, their class schedule and any other changes they might encounter. Planning a tour of the school and classroom or a meet-and-greet with the teacher is a good way to help your kids feel more comfortable with their new reality.
“If a child is nervous about these transitions, schools have often started having open houses prior to school starting to meet teachers, learn where their new classrooms are and see new buildings,” says Dr. White. “This gives children and parents a time to explore and mentally prepare themselves for the new environment. I highly encourage parents take advantage of these and I think they help more anxious children ease into the year.”
Everyone’s least favorite word: lice
Millions of Americans get lice every year, and most are young kids. That’s because back to school means close contact and sharing combs, brushes and hats. If at all possible, check your kids for head lice once a week. Lice usually lurk behind the ears and at the back of the neck, near the neckline.
Find the right backpack
Backpacks are heavier than ever. That can cause back pain. Everyone wants a cool backpack, but take time to choose one that’s comfortable and won’t cause pain. Also, show them how to wear their backpacks correctly to prevent back problems.
Everything will be fine by Halloween
Back to school can be stressful, but it’s temporary. Once a routine is established, everyone can focus on the tasks at hand and start counting down the days until next summer break.