5 Back-To-School Tips To Ease Into The New School Year

By Allury Arora Lal, MD, Pediatrician, Mom, and Founder/Chief Medical Officer of Urgent Care for Children

It’s back-to-school time. Your social media feeds are most likely filled with first day of school pictures, email inboxes are beginning to fill up with messages from your child’s school, and stores are stocked to the brim with aisles of school supplies.  For kids, and even parents, back-to-school is a time of the year fraught with mixed feelings. While some kids look forward to this time of the year, others feel anxiety as school begins and summer break comes to an end.  

As a parent, I’ve also been busy getting my children prepared for the start of another school year. While it’s hard to say goodbye to summer, there’s much to look forward to as we get back to the routine of another school year. Here are some of the tips I have for helping fellow parents make it through the first few weeks:

  1. Make the first day as easy as possible. While it’s best to address any concerns or special needs your child may have with the school before the year begins, it’s never too late to reach out to administrators and educators for special accommodations your child may need this year. For health issues, reach out to the school nurse to discuss concerns such as allergies, the need for an EpiPen, or inhalers for asthma treatment. For kids with health needs, the school nurse is a great resource and advocate for your child’s well-being throughout the year.  Schools have many great supports in place to help children thrive – be sure to use them when needed. 
  2. Is your child starting a new school this year?  Help ease their nerves by talking to them about what to expect on their first day. Let them know they’re not alone. There may be other new students starting school for the first time like them, and even teachers can feel nervous. Normalize these feelings to help minimize the anxiety for your child.

    Additionally, remind kids about the positive aspects of school such as seeing their friends and making new ones. The start of a new year is an opportunity for your kids to try new things and become involved in fun activities like sports, music lessons, and the arts. Giving kids a different perspective on going back to school through a positive outlook can make all the difference.
     
  3. Get a good night’s sleep. There’s nothing more important to a child’s health than a good night’s sleep. Being well-rested prepares kids to face the ups and downs that come with the first days of a new school year. Ensure your child is on a regular sleep-wake schedule. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines (which have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and pediatricians like me!) on pediatric sleep times recommend that kids between the ages of:

3 to 5 years get 10-13 hours of sleep
6 to 12 years get 9-12 hours, and
13 to 18 years get 8-10 hours of sleep

Lack of consistent and quality sleep can contribute to or exacerbate attention disorders, behavior issues, and learning problems in young children and teens. As a mother and a pediatrician, I understand that getting kids on a regular sleep schedule after staying up late and sleeping in all summer can be challenging, but the health benefits far outweigh the struggles. Kids who are well rested perform better in school, are able to focus, and are better prepared to meet the physical and mental demands of the day ahead. 

  1. Turn off the devices. Speaking of establishing good sleep habits, children who stay up on their electronic devices well past their set bedtime will not only be sleep deprived but have a poor quality of sleep. Some studies have shown that the light emitted from devices like cell phones and iPads can actually interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Scrolling through social media and texting friends also doesn’t allow the brain to turn off and prepare for slumber. Parent controls on devices can alleviate use during bedtime or charging devices in rooms other than the bedroom can help kids avoid distraction and focus on falling into a sound sleep. Here’s a good article from the Cleveland Clinic on how devices affect our sleep- both kids and parents.
  2. Emphasize healthy eating habits. Balance is the key to a healthy diet, especially when kids and parents are busy and constantly on the go. A well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and calcium helps fuel kids for the day ahead. With an increase in Federal funding for healthier school meals, there are also more options in schools to meet kids’ dietary needs. Some resources for healthy school lunches and afterschool snacks I like include My Plate Guide to School Lunch, USDA Child Nutrition Program, and Packing a Healthy Lunch from the Harvard School of Public Health. 

By helping kids look forward to the start of the school year, supporting good sleep and eating habits, and encouraging a strong work ethic while also motivating kids to stay physically active and involved in enjoyable activities, parents can set children up for a year of success. 

Here’s to another great school year!