The beginning of a new school year could feel stressful and somewhat chaotic even for experienced moms unless you are prepared. It’s time to collect our thoughts and get organized.
Here are 5 TIPS to help you and your family get off to good start.
1- Resume a bedtime and waking up routine
During summer, most kids get out of their usual bedtime routine, so you will have to reset your child’s sleep schedule before school restarts. It is our job to ensure that our children get adequate sleep every night in order to be well rested during the school day.
It takes a little while to get used to a new bedtime. I suggest adjusting your child’s sleep routine over a period of at least one week before school starts. Slowly move their bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier every night until they are going to bed at the appropriate time. It helps to turn off all screens, including tv and electronics, half an hour before bedtime. Electronics should not be allowed in their bedroom after bedtime. Be consistent with bath time and unwinding time.
During the summer they have most likely gotten used to sleeping in, so you will have to reset their wake-up time as well. Waking them up earlier by 10-15 minutes per day for about one week usually helps to retune their internal clock. Keep in mind that not all children need the same amount of time to get ready in the morning. Please take this into consideration when deciding on the best wake up time for your kids.
How much sleep do school age children need?
Children 3 to 5 years old should get about 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day
Children 6 to 12 years old should get about 9 to 12 hours of sleep per day
Teenagers 13 to 18 years old should get about 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day
Why is sleep important for the school age child?
Healthy sleeping habits are important for the general wellbeing of children. Enough sleep promotes improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and growth. Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increase in injuries, obesity, and depression.
2- Clothing and backpacks
Mornings are hectic for most families as everyone is trying to get ready and walk out the door on time. In order to make the morning routine flow effortlessly, it’s important to establish clear, nonnegotiable rules that all family members must follow. Children should be encouraged to become more independent and have certain responsibilities.
In general, the more you get done the night before school to get organized, the less that will need to be done in the morning.
Clothing: Whether your children are required to wear uniforms or not, his/her clothing should be clean and ready to go ahead of time. Set a spot in the bedroom where the clothing (including socks, belts, shoes, and accessories) will be laid out the night before school. You could also buy a hanging shelf with five compartments, or five stackable bins, where you can store outfits for every day of the week on Sunday night. Even at an early age, children should be included in this process. Soon they will be doing it on their own.
Backpacks: All homework, projects, and papers requiring your signature should be packed in the backpack and ready to go the night before. Teach your children that packing the backpack is their responsibility.
Consider setting up a backpack and jacket station by door. Just imagine how much time this simple step could save you when everyone is struggling to head out on time.
3- Establish a homework routine
Teaching our children to do homework in a systematic, efficient manner can make a difference for their future. Designate an area in the house to be used as a homework station. Many families use their kitchen area, a study, or the dinning table. Have all school supplies needed for homework organized and within reach. Avoid all distractions during homework time. TV, electronics, and toys should not be allowed. If your child has a short attention span, work in 15-20-minute blocks allowing for at least 5 minutes break in between. Make sure your child has a healthy snack after school before starting homework.
4- Fuel their bodies with healthy food
It is a fact that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast do better during the school day. Eating a healthy breakfast provides your child with vital nutrients that will improve their overall nutrition and fuel their bodies for a long day at school. Interestingly, breakfast has also been linked to improved memory, tests scores, attention span and lessens the risk for obesity. Unfortunately, this is the one meal that is most often neglected by families.
What foods should I serve my child for breakfast?
A mix of items from these food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy
Avoid sugary options like cereal, cookies, muffins, and juice.
How to make breakfast time to run smoothly?
Know in advance what your child will eat for breakfast for the whole week. Consider meal prep on Sundays or fixing breakfast before bedtime. Have staples like boiled eggs, chopped fruit, Greek yogurt, lean meats, string cheese, homemade egg muffins, and overnight oats available.
Allow your child plenty of time to eat breakfast, most kids take their time in the morning and don’t like to feel rushed. If your morning routine does not allow time for a sit-down breakfast, consider pre-packaging some of the staples mentioned above in ready to go bags/containers to eat in the car.
If your child is going to eat at the school cafeteria and is not going to be directly supervised, please make sure to spend time discussing with him/her the healthiest, more nutritious options from the menu offered.
If you child will be bringing a lunch box to school, please check the school’s allergy policy and adhere to the rules to prevent an accidental exposure for allergic children. It’s important to teach our children about healthy food choices from an early age. Get them involved in packing their lunch boxes starting around third grade, or sooner if your child is mature enough and showing interest. Still provide supervision to your child, even if he/she is ready to pack a lunch box independently.
Have a plan for what your child will be packing for the whole week. Talk to your child before bedtime about what will be packed in the morning. This will not only save you time, but it will also prevent an argument in the morning.
What foods to pack in the lunch box?
Protein- include dairy products, eggs, nuts, peanut butter, lean meats, and beans.
Whole grains- include the whole grain versions of breads, wraps, pasta, or crackers. This simple change will add on more fiber and nutrients to your child’s diet.
Fruits- include fresh chopped fruits of all different colors. If packing dried fruit or tinned fruit, remember to check nutritional labels. These dried or canned options are likely to have added sugar.
Veggies- include raw veggies like carrots, celery sticks, and cucumbers. Make it fun by adding dips like hummus and yogurt-based dressing.
Drinks: Water is the best option. Do not include soda, sport drinks, or juice.
Avoid sugary treats and dessert as these foods lack nutritional value.
5- Family meeting and master calendar:
With the new school year comes lots and lots of scheduling to accommodate everyone’s new commitments and extracurricular activities. I suggest having a family meeting to talk about what activities your child would like to participate in. Remember to truly take the child’s interests into consideration when selecting activities. While it is important to keep your children active, it is also important not to overschedule them. Overscheduled children are stressed children.
Once the new schedules and activities have been decided, put them on the master calendar. Decide who is going to drop them off and pick them up from the different activities. Also, take the time to get a school calendar and add all events, scheduled holidays, and important due dates for the entire school year to your master calendar.
This meeting is also a perfect opportunity to address any fears or concerns your children might have about a new school year, friends, new school, new sports, and new challenges.
#WCW: A huge shout-out to Dr. Zulma Laracuente, a fellow pediatrician in Louisiana, for today’s post. She talks about the importance of sleep, healthy eating and how to tackle homework as we kick off another school year. Follow her at IG @DrLaraMD.