Adjust Sleep Schedules. Most school-age children function best with 8-11 hours of sleep, more for teens. Figure out what time your child needs to wake up in order to have stress-free schoolday mornings, and work backwards from there to find an appropriate bedtime. Blackout shades or curtains help during the September nights when the sun stays up pretty late. Shifting dinner earlier, and doing a calm activity such as reading, coloring, or playing board games inthe hour before bedtime will help your child relax.
Establish Grooming Routines. Some kids do better showering at night, others need to shower in the morning to wake up. Figure out the best way to balance the needs of all your household members and set up a schedule that will be as low-stress as possible. Build in time for slow movers and switching gears. A kitchen timer will help kids limit their shower time to five minutes or fewer.
Establish a well-stocked homework area and routines/expectations. Some children need to decompress after school, others do best if they address homework right away. Most children need a light snack to stay energized and focused in the time between school and dinner. Establishing good homework rituals early in the year is one of the best things you can do to support your child’s academic development.
Pack backpacks the night before to avoid morning chaos. This includes homework, books, notes, supplies, and gym clothes if needed. Have your child choose and lay out their clothing the night before.
Stock your pantry and fridge with healthful, convenient foods for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Pre-washing and cutting produce makes it easy to grab and go. Choose satisfying breakfasts such as oatmeal, yogurt, and high quality cereal to help your kids face the day with enough nutrients to sustain them until lunch. Steer clear of empty calorie convenience snacks such as chips or sugary snacks and opt for fruits, veggies, cheese, and whole-grain crackers. Also make sure you have reusable containers, lunchboxes & bags, and any other supplies to pack food efficiently.
Walk through the first day of school transitions to ease your child’s jitters. Try to do a dry run. Whether you’ll carpool or bus, show your child where they’ll wait to be picked up and dropped off. Stop by the school — teachers are often unpacking their classrooms in the days before school starts. You can walk your child through the building to his or her classroom, and if you’re lucky, say hi to the teacher! (Just remember these are busy days for staff so try not to be disruptive).
Whatever you do, remember the golden rule of parenting: do not project any worries you might have about back-to-school onto your child. Kids have enough to process during the first days of school without having to worry about mom or dad falling apart. Emphasize the opportunities that lie ahead, rather than what you’ll miss about the summer or preschhool or anything else they’re leaving behind. Convey a positive, confident attitude about the transition and your child will follow your lead. (You can cry — or cheer! — after the bus pulls away or they’re safely ensconced in their new classroom.)
Good luck parents!