Parents often find that their children have trouble moving from their summer daze and flexible schedule to the structured school year routine the academic year brings. Perhaps bedtime crept later and later and the kids had full days of pool time and leisurely activities over summer vacation. Of course, this would be hard for anyone to give up! How can you make this point in the year easier on you and your children? Stacy Meyer, MD, endocrinologist and Dr. Mom Squad blogger at Dayton Children’s Hospital says, “Routine and familiarity are huge factors in success when preparing kids for back-to-school, especially those who are very young. It helps them anticipate what is coming next, but also sets current expectations for behavior.” Here are some tips to help you make the best of this transition.
Adjust bedtime routines at least two weeks before classes begin
Parents are usually a little more lax about bedtime during the summer months, which can lead to problems when the school year comes back around. To avoid fatigued children during those first couple weeks of school, start pushing sleep and wake time up 30 minutes each night until you’re back on schedule. It may also be beneficial to establish a household routine of going to bed earlier yourself, which means powering down those devices before bed. Although many kids enjoy games and activities on tablets and cell phones, using these devices as bedtime rolls around can be harmful to your adjustment efforts. Meyer says, “The AAP has a recommendation for two hours or less of screen time and no screen time for children under two years of age. If screen time is typical for your child, make sure it happens well before bedtime, especially when they are approaching the school year.” Not only can these games be too stimulating for a pre-bedtime activity, the light from the screen itself impacts the ability to fall asleep. Consider choosing activities such as playing with playdough, doing puzzles or reading a book before bedtime instead.
Be clear about classroom expectations
Help your child have a positive start to the school year by creating habits at home that can translate to the classroom. Having kids pick up toys and be responsible for their own play space are habits that will ultimately end up serving them well in a classroom setting. While small rewards are great for re-establishing routine and getting past that summer slump, be realistic about what kids can expect in the classroom. Summer is great for relaxing, but school won’t always be fun. “Help them understand that teachers are not entertainers,” says Gregory Ramey, PhD, pediatric psychologist at Dayton Children’s. “Their jobs are to help our children learn, which can be terribly exciting at times but also boring and tedious. Prepare your children to expect and accept both parts of the learning experience.”
Get kids get excited for the start of a new year
With a few small activities, you can help your youngster look forward to the big day! Shopping with kids for school supplies and letting them pick out their own materials is not only fun, but can encourage responsibility to care for their belongings. Also, have kids participate in packing their own lunches. Using cookie cutters to liven up sandwiches or make aesthetically pleasing (and healthy) snacks like celery boats can be a great nightly activity for kids and parents alike!
While getting back into the swing of things can be tough as summer comes to a close, making some time to prepare in advance sets the stage for a successful school year.