School supplies are stuffed into backpacks, lunches are brown-bagged and the first day’s outfit is laid out. You and your kids feel ready for the school year. But are you really? The real test begins now for parents: how to shift from summer to back-to-school mode in order to successfully make it through the first weeks of school?
“During the first weeks of school, the new environment, objects, and people in a young child's life can overload the brain,” writes Dr. Bruce D. Perry in his article Beginning School: How Children Process New Experiences. According Perry, the first weeks of school tend to be overstimulating, and organization is the best way to counter negative effects.
In order for you and your children to survive and thrive early on and set the groundwork for an entire year of success, the following formula can help you navigate the first week of school.
Gradually Adjust Bedtime Routine
Going to sleep may very well be the last task of the day, but bedtime should be a priority during the first week of school in order to prevent irascible children and exhausted parents. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children sleep an average of 8 hours per 24-hour period.
It’s imperative for parents to begin to adjust the bedtime routine at least two weeks before the first day of school. If your kids need help, encourage them to engage in physical activities during the afternoons and to take a lukewarm shower before going to bed. Also, turn off the television and all electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.
Establish a Weekly Menu
Healthy meals tend to take a summer vacation along with the rest of the family, but it’s time to leave fast food, soft drinks and pizza dinners behind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that proper nutrition is vital for academic performance. There’s no better time than the first week of school to establish a schedule for meals and snacks. Make sure your children participate in establishing a weekly menu as studies have shown that children who are involved in preparing meals get better nutrition and are more focused in school.
Also, organizing the daily lunchbox ahead of time allows you to plan trips with your children to the supermarket, where you can teach your kids about making healthy meal choices.
Technology Can be Your Ally
In most homes, children aren’t thrilled when their parents order them to put down electronic devices. But the use of technology isn’t the problem; in fact, these tools can be useful for parents with some planning and age-appropriate limitations.
Applications like myHomework, a virtual backpack for homework and deadlines; Bear in Mind, which allows users to create to-do lists; or Flocabulary, which relies on rhymes to help children learn, can be very useful to help you set a routine. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that helps parents and educators navigate the digital world, recommends establishing tech-free zones or times, so as to set aside times of the day during which no member of the family is allowed to use electronic devices as well as areas where the use of these devices isn’t allowed.
Back to school shouldn’t mean back to stress, and following these simple guidelines will transition you from summer break to the school year with little resistance from your little ones.