Help Kids Get in a Back to School Mindset
Switching gears from vacation fun to hitting class can be a bummer for children – for some, even stressful. Here are three ways parents can ease them back into a learning routine.
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Another school year is just around the corner, which means it's almost time to trade those beach balls in for backpacks and breathe in the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Trouble is, no matter how psyched for school a kid is, there is a natural tendency to resist getting back to the regular routine of reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Here are three steps to switch your child's mental gears to going-back-to-school time!
Prepare for the school slumber routine
As we move from one season to another, it can be hard to count sheep with the sun still out – and even harder to rise without any shine. Still, waiting until the first day of school to get kids into bed by 9 p.m. and up again at 7 a.m. will only shock their biological clocks and have them crankier in the morning.
Dr. Alexis Balomenos, a pediatrician with Tender Care Pediatrics in New Haven, recommends that parents start easing their kids into regular sleep schedules about two weeks before school starts. "Do it gradually every day in 15 minute increments," she suggests. "Start getting them up at 8:30 the first day, 8:15 the next and so on until they're up when they need to be."
To help them feel their best (and stay awake in class!), the National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips to establish healthy sleep routines.
Set an alarm to go off about a half-hour before bedtime and block off this time for brushing teeth, dressing for bed and winding down with a book. Getting into such a routine will help cue sleep time in the future and make bedtime easier for even the fussiest sleepers.
Consistent wake-up time
Avoid using weekends to slack off on sleep or catch-up from the week. "If they're going to sleep in on Saturday morning, keep it at an hour tops," Balomenos recommends; otherwise, Monday mornings will be a lot harder to wake up to.
Be an example
As a family, set a time for all televisions, video games and computers to be turned off before bed, so earlier sleepers won't feel like they're missing out on the night (and maybe everyone will start getting enough rest).
Calm their worries
Too anxious to sleep? Talk it out. If your child's mind is frantic with first-day worries, talk to him about what makes him nervous and try turning each worry into something positive. Feeling too bummed summer's over? Have your child write a list of all the good things he or she enjoyed about the vacation; then balance it out with all the things to look forward to in the school year (science fairs? Homecoming dances?).
If "I'm not sleepy yet!" sounds familiar, encourage regular exercise during the day. Taking an afternoon bike ride or family jog may help restless sleepers doze off easier in the evening. Just make sure any physical activities take place at least three hours before bedtime.
How much sleep?
Preschool- and elementary-age children need 11-13 hours of sleep daily, according to the National Sleep Foundation. As your child gets older and homework loads increase, it may be tempting for them to stay up past midnight scrambling to finish papers before for class the next morning, but don't allow it.
"On average, most teens are only getting five to six hours of sleep," Balomenos says. That's about two hours short of what the NSF deems necessary for tweens (9-11 hours a night) and high-schoolers (8 1/2-9). Remember: A lack of sleep not only can greatly affect your child's mood; it also hurts his or her academic performance and may lead to weight gain, according to recent studies.