In the middle of shopping for clothes and school supplies, keeping doctors’ appointments, and juggling the fun and freedom that comes with summer vacation, an innate calendar (and a slew of back-to-school ads) starts cueing parents and kids that the school season is approaching. From morning talk shows and family-oriented magazines to “mom blogs,” there’s a host of tasks and actions to address to get kids ready for back to school.
The Cleveland Clinic has distilled much of this wisdom down to three solid recommendations: 1) establish a regular sleep schedule, 2) prepare foods that promote brain health, and 3) create structure. Here’s how these guidelines might work for you.
Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
The long summer days usually translate to later bedtimes for kids. But kids need plenty of sleep and will soon face early-morning wake-ups. Jyoti Krishna, MD, who treats pediatric sleep disorders at Akron Children’s Hospital, says parents need to anticipate and put into motion a more regular sleep schedule. School-aged children ages six to twelve need ten to eleven hours of sleep per night, and kids twelve to eighteen should get nine hours. This is best achieved gradually, moving bedtime up in fifteen- or thirty-minute increments over the course of a week or two. Also try to keep kids away from electronics later in the evening. The light that comes from television and video screens affects melatonin production, giving the body the impression that you’re not ready for sleep, and makes the brain think it’s still daytime.
Prepare Foods That Promote Brain Health
As we’ve noted in other articles, certain foods promote brain health while others play havoc with blood sugar energy levels. Make sure your kids are getting a healthy breakfast of whole grains, low-fat milk or yogurt, and fresh fruit. The slow-releasing carbohydrates in whole grain cereals or whole grain bread are a better option than cereals with refined sugars and processed flours. Lunches can be creative: sandwiches on whole grain bread, nut spreads, hummus and veggies, low-fat cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh or dried fruit options. A healthy diet can provide energy to last through the day and will also promote overall well-being.
A child’s school schedule can differ greatly from the carefree vacation days leading up to it. Parents and kids can work together to begin to ease into the routine of fall. Parents can have kids help with meal preparation. Come September, your kids might be able to fix their own lunches or breakfasts. If kids can pick out their clothes the night before, they save precious minutes trying to figure out what to wear each morning. And parents and kids should talk about what they anticipate at school—everything from anxiousness and teachers to when and where to do homework.
Back-to-school doesn’t have to be a drudge. The start of the new season offers a time to reenergize, refocus, and reap the rewards from a successful transition from summer to fall.