When a new school year starts, it’s important to make sure kids are physically and mentally prepared to get back to the classroom. Let's explore some tips that can help make the transition back to school easier.
Have a Conversation with Your Child
In preparation for school, start by having a conversation. Children may have many different feelings about going to school including excitement, nervousness, or even fear. This is especially true for those going to school for the first time, those going to a new school, or going to school for the first time in the U.S. Ask how they feel about going to school and let them know that it is normal to have many different feelings. Let them know they can come talk to you if they face challenges in school with friends, teachers, or their schoolwork.
Getting enough sleep is important to a child's physical and mental well-being and affects their performance in school. During the summer holidays, kids may have adjusted to a relaxed sleep schedule, staying up later and waking up later in the morning. To help them get back into a school routine, gradually adjust their sleep schedule a couple of weeks before the first day of school and create routines around sleep and waking up. Consistent bedtimes and wake-up times ensure they get enough sleep each night.
A bedtime routine is especially helpful, especially if your family has a shared sleeping space. Calming activities before bed, such as reading a book together, saying a prayer, or sitting together to talk about your day can help relax the body which leads to better sleep. This can include a regular time for getting ready for bed and going to bed, as well as things like brushing their teeth, washing their face, reading a book, saying a prayer, or sitting together and talking about your day. People of all ages need enough sleep to think clearly, learn and function. This is especially true for children and youth who need enough sleep to grow and develop. On average toddlers (1–2 years) need 11–14 hours a day including naps. preschool (3–5 years) need 10–13 hours, including naps. school-age (6–13 years) need 9–12 hours and teens (14–17 years) need 8–10 hours.
Healthy Eating and Movement
During the summer, children may have eaten meals at less regular times or eating more unhealthy foods. As the new school year starts, think about how you can encourage healthy eating habits. This may involve talking with your student about healthy breakfast or lunch options, or signing your student up for a free or cost-reduced lunch at their school.
A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for children's growth, development, and academic performance. Before the new school year begins, take the time to evaluate their eating habits and make any necessary adjustments. Breakfasts that include a combination of protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables, are a great way to start the day. A nutritious breakfast provides the energy needed for a productive day at school.
Physical activity is also vital for a child's physical health, learning ability, and emotional well-being. Think about how you can help your children move regularly, even if it's just a short walk, a basketball game, or kite flying after dinner. Regular physical activity improves their overall health, their ability to concentrate and learn in the classroom, and the quality of their sleep.
Creating an Emotionally Supportive Environment
A new school year can bring about a mix of emotions for children, including excitement and nervousness. Listening to them express their feelings and concerns about going back to school will help address any anxieties they may have. Discussing positive experiences they’ve had in the past at school and reassure them that they have your support throughout the school year.
Try to find out when the school start and end time is, and how your student will get to school and get home. If you have access to the Internet, speak English, or know someone who can help you that speaks English, visit the school’s web page. Read about the teachers and activities offered at the school. Review all of this with your student to help reduce uncertainty and decrease worries. Plan with your child what to do if they get sick at school. This would include rehearsing what to say to a teacher and who the school should call. For younger children, discuss what they should do if they feel anxious or are missing you. This may include things like providing something small from their parent they can hold in their pocket or practicing slow breathing to calm down.
Involving children in the back-to-school preparation process creates a sense of responsibility and independence, which can ease anxiety. Allow them to pick out their school supplies, lunch boxes, and backpacks, which can boost their confidence and enthusiasm for the new school year.
Some children may be worried about getting sick, be worried about germs, or especially concerned about getting sick with COVID-19. Talking to your children about hand hygiene like washing hands before eating or washing after using the bathroom is a good way to reduce their sickness anxiety. You can also talk to your kids about vaccines for preventable diseases, such as the flu shot or the COVID-19 bivalent booster and make an appointment to get vaccinated.
As a new school year approaches, remember that preparation is more than just shopping for school supplies. By focusing on sleep, healthy eating, and overall well-being, we increase the chances of our children's success and happiness. Encouraging a balanced and supportive lifestyle can help ensure that kids are prepared, rested, and ready to begin the new school year.