Summer vacation for many kids is a time to stay up late, sleep in and relax.
Returning to a routine is hard, and anxiety about starting school makes it more difficult for some kids.
But parents can make going back to school easier by making small changes as summer winds down, Marshfield Clinic pediatrician Dr. David Mathias said.
Start a back-to-school sleep routine
“Sleep is the biggest adjustment from the summer routine,” Mathias said. “Sometimes there’s confusion about how much sleep kids need. Even adolescents need 9 to 9.5 hours. Some kids don’t get anywhere near that.”
He suggested first helping kids get enough sleep. Find tips here. Then adjust their bedtime and wake them up earlier during the few weeks before school starts.
Practice good eating habits
Diet, like sleep, tends to get off track in the summer.
“Remind kids they do need to eat breakfast,” Mathias said. “There are so many reasons for that. Breakfast improves their focus at school and helps kids maintain a healthy weight.”
Encourage kids to eat at meal times instead of eating anything whenever they want — and avoid caffeine.
Build brain power with books
Sitting in a classroom and getting homework may be hard for your kids if they haven’t hit the books all summer.
They don’t have to spend hours studying when class isn’t in session, but summer reading is the best way for kids to keep their minds active during the summer, Mathias said.
Plus, summer is a chance for them to grow to love reading, because they can choose books they want to read instead of reading what their teachers tell them.
Attend back-to-school orientation events
If your child’s school offers the chance to walk through the building before school starts, take advantage of the opportunity.
Learning locker combinations and practicing the route between classes will help ease back-to-school anxiety, especially if your child is starting school in a new building.
Clubs and sports, which often meet before the first day of school, give kids a chance to meet students, teachers and coaches, Mathias said.
Have positive conversations about school
“Don’t brush kids’ concerns aside, but do take a positive approach to the coming year,” he said. “Listen to what their concerns are, but don’t dwell on them. Talk about the exciting things they will get to experience.”
If your child is anxious about having a new teacher, remind him that he didn’t know his teacher at the beginning of the last school year but grew to like him or her.
If a certain school subject is causing anxiety, parents shouldn’t brush it off by saying they never did well in that subject, Mathias said. A child who hears his parents were never good math students may believe he can’t get good math grades, either.
Instead, compliment your child’s hard work and problem solving skills.