By: Joseph Mechak, MD
For many kids, it has been almost a year and a half since they were physically in the classroom. The transition back to school after summer break can be a challenge under the best circumstances… which these are not. We hope that you and your children are as ready as you can be for the year ahead. If not, below are my 7 tips to make the start of school as smooth as possible:
- Set the alarm now! It can take up to 1-2 weeks for your child’s body to shift from a relaxed summer sleep schedule to the more rigid school schedule. As much as your child wants to soak in the last few days of summer, it is important to start shifting their sleep schedule now! Focus on setting the morning wake-up call and bedtime will follow. (Feel free to blame Dr. Mechak for any dirty looks you get…)
- Rehearse your morning routine – Practice makes perfect. Do a few trial runs of the morning routine before school starts. Make sure there is enough time for a good breakfast, the full hygiene routine, packing school bags and lunches, and getting out the door on time! Work out the kinks ahead of time so there is no added stress on the first day of school.
- Make a plan – Make a school day schedule to help keep your kids on track. Make sure to build in time for rest, exercise, activities, and homework. Put it down on paper so everyone knows the schedule and has the same expectations. Having a schedule will help avoid procrastination, late night homework stress, excess video game time, and other bad habits from forming.
- Start out on the right foot – Major transitions, like the start of school, are a great chance to hit the reset button and work on establishing healthier habits. Use this week as an opportunity do things like start a regular exercise routine, focus on healthy after-school snacking, making breakfast a part of the morning routine, or moving away from other bad habits that have developed over the course of the pandemic. Start from day one and keep the positive momentum going!
- Know what support is available – The return to school will be stressful for a lot of kids and families. Know what mental health, emotional, social, and academic supports are available in the school and the community. Do your research ahead of time so that you can quickly access it as needed during the school year. This is especially important for kids with a 504 Plan or IEP. Start conversations with the school early!
- Communicate – Talk with your child after the first few days (or all days for that matter) about what is going well, what is causing stress, the highs and lows of their day. This will help you connect and understand their school experiences. It may also help identify any worries or concerns early. Similarly, communicate openly and often with teachers, counselors, and school staff about any questions or concerns that come up.
- Pack the essentials – This school year will be different than ever before. There are a few new essentials on the back to school list this year. Don’t forget things like hand sanitizer, extra masks, bags to store dirty masks, an emergency contact list, medication list, pads/tampons, deodorant, or anything that you think your child may need. Better to be prepared than caught stranded!
We know a lot of emotions are attached to returning to school this year. We continue to believe that being back in the classroom is a top priority for your children. As always, if any physical, academic, or mental health concerns developed during this unprecedented year, please reach out. We are here to help! We wish you and your family a very smooth, happy, and safe transition back to school!