Returning to school means jumping back into a Monday through Friday routine. For some kiddos, a new school year is exciting; for others, it comes with a bit of anxiety and trepidation.
7 Tips to Set Your Household Up for a Positive Academic Year
Whichever the case may be for the children in your household, these tips can support a healthy and successful school year.
1. Start the “routine” the week before school starts
Does summertime mean later nights, later morning starts, and a less structured eating schedule? If so, start getting back to a similar “weekday school schedule” at least a week before school starts. This helps to re-sync everyone’s circadian rhythm, so it’s not such a shock once school starts.
2. Check in with each child separately
Find a moment here or there to check in with each of your children separately. It’s not always easy for a child to express their concerns about school, especially if they have a sibling who loves school and thrives in the academic or social environment. See how each one is feeling and ask, “how can I support you?” to see what comes up.
3. Review age-appropriate “monitoring” levels
Your third, fourth, and fifth graders may seem quite capable in many ways. That said, they still need consistent monitoring and support in all the ways they may say they don’t. Establish clear habits or rituals around:
- Emptying lunch and snack boxes and cleaning them out
- Throwing trash out of the backpack, keeping it orderly
- Reviewing their homework planner together and physically verifying school work is done when they say it is
- Allowing some type of “down time” or decompression time in a way that makes sense for them (walking the dog, jumping on the trampoline, listening to music, resting in bed with a book, playing with a favorite game or toy) before starting the homework routine
- Taking time to give them a hug, look them in the eye, and say, “I love you!”
Some children may need to have your help with “backpack” and “organization” hygiene for longer than others; this is totally normal. It’s wise to create a “Daily Checklist” that’s laminated and hung in a visible location. Children can check off the boxes with a dry erase pen. Leave a few blank lines so additions can be made as needed.
4. Never diminish or play off a child’s anxiety or fears
As a harried parent who’s “been there,” you know that most things turn out just fine and that the only way out is through. However, these sentiments aren’t helpful when a child or young adult feels nervous, anxious, afraid, or sad. Honoring the intensity of these emotions is essential to helping them feel seen and heard.
Normalize them and consider reading a book together like From Worrier to Warrior by Dan Peters. Don’t hesitate to speak to your pediatrician about your child’s anxiety. We’d love to check in and can provide all kinds of support.
5. Establish a solid sleep schedule
Healthy, uninterrupted sleep is essential for anyone to thrive, but children are especially susceptible to the impact of poor or insufficient sleep. Children experiencing sleep deprivation are at higher risk for:
- Difficulty paying attention in class
- Delayed reading/writing/math skills
- Behavioral issues
- Being overweight (loss of sleep affects metabolism)
- Being sick more often due to a depleted immune system
Children need varying hours of sleep depending on their age and personal needs. You may be surprised to know that children six to 13 years of age still need between nine and eleven (9 and 11) hours of sleep per day.
Honor those needs and set bedtimes according to a child’s needs rather than age. If they need an alarm to wake up for school or struggle to wake up and “get up” in the morning, odds are they need an earlier bedtime.
6. Schedule well child care and vision exams
Late summer or early fall are great times to schedule your children’s annual well child care exams and vision tests. Both are essential to helping your child feel and do their best. Don’t forget to bring in their activities clearance forms, so we can sign those off for their team sports or other extracurricular activities.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends scheduling pediatric eye exams before a child starts school – and then every year thereafter – to correct vision loss before it compromises their ability to learn and remain engaged in class. Don’t have an optometrist you love? The PANW staff is happy to refer you to one.
7. Walk the Road to Resilience
The APA states that resiliency is “…the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.” And Harvard University researchers say, “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” Children and adults thrive when they learn to be resilient.
That’s right! You can learn and practice resiliency. We feel cultivating a resilient family culture is so important that our pediatricians put together a six-part Road to Resiliency video series. You can also download a range of handouts accessible to all ages from that same page.
Bonus Tip: Seek Joy!
Above all else, seek joy in your life with your children and community. Take turns planning fun things to do. Step One: Play the inspiring song “Resilient” by Rising Appalachia and have an impromptu dance party. Then let each child pick a song and keep the dance party going.
Schedule Your Back-to-School Well Child Visit
Ready to schedule your family’s well child visits? Contact Pediatric Associates of the Northwest. We’ll get you on the books and support your family as you head back to school for a successful and nourishing year together.