If you have kids, your porch might be paved with wet bathing suits, mismatched flip flops and popsicle sticks—signs of a perfect summer break, right? But, one trip to the school supply section of the store is enough to remind us that August is here and school is just around the corner. (I know—I can hear the collective groan from every kid now.)
Transitioning into a school-year routine can be stressful for families. Amanda Sommerville, MD, a pediatric and internal medicine specialist at Olathe Health Family Medicine – Paola, has some tips to help ease everyone back into fall.
1. Start establishing a school sleep schedule now.
Make that first early wake-up call a little easier on everyone by reinstating a bedtime and regular wake-up time now. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends children ages 6 to 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night, and teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours each night. Two to three weeks before school starts, move bedtime up by 15 minutes. Gradually increase that every few days until your child is able to fall asleep at his or her school year bedtime, without too much protesting.
If your child likes to sleep in during the summer, gradually introduce a morning alarm and set it a little earlier every few days until they’re on a proper sleep schedule.
2. Plan now for healthy eating habits.
Frantic mornings, afternoons filled with extra-curricular activities, and lots of homework at night—it can be tough to keep a healthy diet going for the entire family. Plan ahead and get your kids involved! Consider buying a fun lunchbox or container that makes it easy to pack a variety of healthy and fun foods. Stock up on cut-up fruits and veggies, crackers, pretzels, healthy dips, cheese slices, lunch meat and even leftovers. Kids can help pack their box the night before, so it’s ready to grab on the way to the bus stop.
On the weekends, sit down with your family and work on a family meal planner for the upcoming week. There are many free printable planners – like the one here – to help divvy up dinner duties and ensure you include healthy fruits and veggies in each meal.
3. Talk with your kids about social anxiety and stress, and brainstorm ways to ease their fears.
Starting a new grade or a new school can be tough. Parents can help make the transition a little smoother by meeting your child’s new teacher in person before school starts, visiting the classroom with your child and involving your child in picking out school supplies and new clothes. If your school has a Facebook group for parents, reach out to other parents of kids in the same grade as yours. Plan a meet-up at the park or ice cream shop a week before class starts. It can be reassuring for your kids to walk into a classroom and see a familiar face. Same goes for us parents at school events, right?
Having worries or fears about school is normal for kids of all ages, but if they start to interfere with your child’s ability to go to school, participate in activities or enjoy time with friends, it’s a good idea to talk to your pediatrician or primary care physician.