Goodbye Summer–a new school year is here! Well, technically Summer isn’t over yet, but the start of school signals the end of Summer as we know it (no school, vacations, trips to the beach, etc.). Starting a new school year can be a time of excitement and anxiety. But with all that excitement and anxiety families face a new set of challenges. Shorter Autumn days bring hectic schedules of sports, activities and events…and full calendars. In this post you will find tips, advice and ideas to help you make a smooth transition from the lazy days of Summer to a healthy, exciting and successful school year.
Avoiding the Madness
Want to avoid crazy, chaotic mornings in your house? Plan ahead to send your kids out the door in a happy frame of mind. While also maintaining your sanity.
The night before, think ahead to the morning to see where you can lighten your load. Set the breakfast table as you clear the dinner dishes. Make sure breakfast foods are easy to reach if your child is old enough and wants to get there own breakfast. Lay out your children’s clothing the night before. To make things really easy, I used to get my children’s clothes out for the entire week, iron them all and lay them out, on Sunday. That way I didn’t have to worry about doing it every night. It also avoids having to debate with your child about what to wear in the morning when time is of the essence. Your child can also collaborate with you on the outfit choices if they so desire. This even works if your child wears uniforms. My motto is always, “Work smarter, not harder”. Make sure all homework papers, books, papers requiring parent signatures, projects, musical instruments, backpacks, sports bags, or anything else your child will need, are in a central location and ready to go in the morning.
If your kids share a bathroom, you probably experience some bathroom wars. To help quell this, try using a bathroom schedule so that everyone gets equal time and you won’t have to play referee in the morning.
Going back to school means an end to staying up late. To help your child transition back to waking up early, Dr. Warren Seigel, Chairman of Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital in New York, says it’s important to establish a new sleep routine. “Start with going to bed one hour earlier every night and waking up early until the new routine is established,” he told CBS News. “It needs to be done a week or two before going back to school, not the night before school starts.” The first day of school is not time for drastic adjustments of sleep schedules.
The National Sleep Foundation provides guidelines for the amount of sleep children should get at different ages. They suggest kids between the ages of 3 and 5 get 10-13 hours of sleep a night; ages 6 to 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep; and teens 14 and older should get 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
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Dr. Sarah Armstrong, director Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles Clinic and an associate professor of Pediatrics and Community and Family Medicine, also offered some advice to help kids fall asleep easier. “Taking a hot bath cools the body down and triggers the central nervous system to induce sleep,” she said. “Also turning the lights down an hour or two before bedtime.”
Studies have shown that the glowing light from cellphone or tablet screens can disrupt sleep cycles, so make sure your kids put their electronic device away before bedtime.
Homework and Study Time
It’s a good idea to schedule a regular time for homework so that the child gets into a good routine. Make sure that homework time is free from distractions like TV or other electronic devices. It’s especially very important to establish regular homework/study time when your child participates in extra curricular activities and/or sports. These things can be very time consuming and can get in the way of your child’s school work if an appropriate routine is not set and prioritized.
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If your child is struggling with a particular subject or can’t focus, discuss this with a teacher or school counselor to determine the best solution.
Organizing the Chaos
With a new school year comes a whole lot of schedules. Sporting events, school functions, lunch menus, music lessons, dance recitals, and an array of other activities. To help calm the chaos, keep one centralized calendar for the whole family. You”ll need a family event calendar to track all activities pertaining to the children and even the parents. This calendar will help with time management so that no activity or event is missed due to being overlooked or overbooked.
Form is less important than function. If you are traditional and still like to use paper and see things handwritten, then opt for a paper calendar. You could also use a white board calendar that will be easy to revise when necessary. But if your tech savvy, your tablet, smartphone or home computer/laptop can be used to sync all of your dates/events. Choose whatever works best for you and your family. Posting this calendar in a central location will help ensure that all family members have access to it and can see what’s going on and when.
Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Eating a healthy diet is key to a child’s development, school performance and overall health, research shows.
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Here are a few tips to help keep your kids properly fueled without taking a lot of extra time out of your day:
- Prep Meals to Save Time– shop for breakfast and lunch essentials in advance; chop fruits and veggies in advance, to have them ready to go when you need them (research shows kids are more likely to eat fruits/veggies when they are cut up)
- Focus on Quality Carbs– Studies show that school-aged kids perform better on tests and have improved concentration when they eat a balanced breakfast. Include whole grain or enriched grains that are low in added sugars like breads and cereals (aim for less than 10 grams of sugar per serving of cereal). Quality carbs from grain-based foods and fruit are nutrient-rich and provide the brain with a steady supply of energy to facilitate learning. Example of a balanced breakfast for kids is eggs, toast and fruit. If your child has allergies or food intolerances, provide whatever is appropriate.
- Keep Your Kids Properly Hydrated– Staying well hydrated is extremely important to prevent fatigue and keep concentration levels going strong. Proper hydration also helps them maintain a healthy weight as dehydration often masks itself as hunger and can cause children (and adults) to overeat. Skip sugary energy drinks and sodas and give kids a bottle of water instead (add fruit slices if kids get bored with just plain water) or a bit of 100% fruit juice to the water.
After months of staying up late, zoning out in front of the TV or video game, playing outside all day, swimming and eating all kinds of snacks throughout the day, kids have a lot of adjustments to make as they head back to school. This is a good time for your children to visit the pediatrician, the dentist and the eye doctor to make sure their health is up to par.
Annual checkups should be done by a pediatrician before each new school year to ensure that your child’s medical records and vaccinations are up to date. You might need to prove this to the school. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a complete list of vaccination schedules, by age group, posted on its website.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to schedule your child for a sports physical so they can participate in athletics. Sports physicals are valid for one year and your child won’t be able to participate in sports if that is not done.
Vision screenings are typically done as part of of a child’s physical exam, so parents should ask pediatricians about checking your child’s eyesight before school starts. “Having poor vision can sometimes go unnoticed,” Armstrong says. Kids might not say anything or know that something is amiss with their vision. If your child has to squint or strain to see to the front of the classroom, it could show up as headaches during the day, poor school performance or even behavioral problems. Pediatricians can advise when a visit to an optometrist or opthalmologist in needed.
Hearing tests should also be done if you have concerns. Armstrong said that hearing screens are done regularly until about age 6 or 7 and then every two to three years thereafter. “Hearing is less likely to go bad at a later age (in adolescence),” Armstrong said.
According to the CDC, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions among children and results in a staggering number of missed school days. Good oral hygiene is an important part of your child’s overall health. We recommend that your child go to the dentist two times a year for routine cleanings and checkups. It is also recommended that your child brush their teeth 2x day with a fluoride toothpaste. Flossing is also recommended at least 1x a day. This can be challenging for some children so it is ok if the child uses the floss sticks.
With the new school year starting now is the perfect time to remind motorists and families of the importance of keeping our children safe as they travel to and from school. Whether you have a teen driver on the road or a child waiting for a school bus, it is very important for everyone to be on heightened alert as the new school year begins.
According to the National Safety Council, half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school. With the new year starting, there will be more buses, bicyclists, cars and pedestrians which is why it is important to slow down and share the road.
- Be sure to know your school’s drop off procedures if you’re dropping off your child
- Be aware of school buses stopping frequently
- DO NOT PASS A STOPPED SCHOOL BUS if their stopping gear is out! Proceed carefully when appropriate!
- Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb
- Make sure your child walks where they can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see the child too)
- Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required
- If your child’s bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when on the bus (if your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with them)
- Be extra cautious of pedestrians
- Slow down in school zones
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A new school year is the start of new and exciting times. We can manage the chaos and ensure that our children have happy, healthy and successful school years.
*This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give medical, dental, nutrition, health or safety advice. Please contact your own professional in these areas for advice or treatment.