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Back to School Tips and Resources

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  • Parents should start adjusting bedtimes about two weeks before school starts.
  • Get back into school routines a few days before school starts.
  • Create your own frozen meals for weeknights.
  • Start morning prep at night.
  • Breakfasts should be high in protein and low in sugar.
  • Give your child plenty of time to get ready each morning.
  • Be sure to communicate your after-school plan with your child and the school.
  • Avoid over scheduling.

Back to school can be a tough adjustment for both you and your child, but we are here to help. Follow these research based tips to get off to a good start this school year.

How can a routine help?

Routines are wonderful tools. Some people have a knack for setting and keeping routines, and others find it difficult, but kids, despite how much they may protest, thrive in routine. Routines cut down on anxiety, ease time management, and allow for increased independence. 

Set clear expectations and allow for time to get into routine both at night and in the morning. It is a good idea to begin the back to school routines before school actually begins. A few days is usually sufficient, but some kids may need longer.

What about sleep?

Going back to school also means going back to bed at a set time every night. Establishing a routine is essential to ensuring a good night’s sleep for your child. The same process of getting ready for bed each night will help prepare the child’s body and mind for rest. A child’s bedtime routine should be consistent, relaxing and free from distractions.

Kids who have been staying up later during the summer months may have trouble adjusting back to a school-time sleep schedule. Parents can ensure children are well rested and ready for the school day by gradually adjusting kids’ bedtimes so that they go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. The National Sleep Foundation recommends parents begin adjusting bedtimes about two weeks before school starts.

We recommend easing a child into a school time sleep schedule by pushing his or her bedtime back by 10-15 minutes each night until reaching their ideal bedtime. The same principle should be applied in the morning hours. This gradual change of sleeping habits, combined with a proper bedtime routine, should make the transition away from summer easier and help your child feel more prepared for heading back to school.

How much sleep your child needs:

  • Preschool children need 11-13 hours
  • Elementary age children need between 10-12 hours
  • Middle school and pre-teens should be getting 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers should be getting 8.5- 9 hours

Skipping sleep can be harmful. According to Washburn, teenagers are the age group least likely to get enough sleep, with the average teen getting fewer than seven hours on school nights by the end of high school. Parents of teenagers should see their children are getting 8.5 - 9 hours of sleep at night.

Prepping meals saves time and money.

Eating on the go doesn't have to be unhealthy. It just takes a little planing. When the school year begins it becomes even more difficult to get dinner on the table, so it is important to prep meals ahead of time. When you have dinner planned ahead of time it is easier to resist the drive thru. Some of our favorite options are DIY frozen meals, one pot wonders, and slow cooker meals.

Importance of Breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially for children. A recent University of Arkansas study showed that providing school-­aged children increased protein at breakfast decreases hunger and increases fullness for several hours after breakfast compared to a carbohydrate­-based breakfast low in protein.

Eating a healthy breakfast that is high in protein and low in sugar will lead to benefits such as:

  • higher school attendance
  • fewer issues with tardiness
  • higher test scores
  • improved concentration
  • burning more energy
  • better muscle coordination

Fix-It-Quick Breakfast Ideas

  • Ready-to-eat cereal with milk and fruit
  • Peanut butter on whole wheat toast
  • Bagel with cheese
  • Reheated rice, hard-cooked egg
  • Grits topped with cheese
  • Oatmeal with applesauce
  • Pita bread and yogurt
  • Toasted waffle topped with sliced fruit

Do you have an after-school plan?

Make sure your child knows the after-school plan and be sure to communicate that with their teachers and all other necessary people. Most schools have strict policies about pick-up/end-of-day procedures. If your child typically walks home, but they are picked up when it is raining, the school needs to know that. If you normally pick them up, but grandma is getting them on Fridays, the school (and your child) needs to know that as well.

Need help finding childcare?

If you plan for your child to come home after school and stay alone, be sure you set clear expectations for them so they understand what they can and cannot do. Our Family Life Friday "Home Alone" series outlines some issues of readiness, safety, and structure you should consider before leaving your child home alone.

Avoid over scheduling!

It is easy to get sucked into too many activities at the beginning of school. There are sign-up sheets everywhere, and different clubs and organizations are asking for you to volunteer and for your child to participate. Be thoughtful and intentional about what you sign up for and what you allow your child to participate in. Especially if you have more than one child, you may find yourself constantly shuttling children around to activities and meetings. 

Set limits on what activities your child(ren) can participate in. It is difficult to say no when they are excited about something, but they need to learn to make choices and to have down time, and you need down time as well. It is ok to say no to committees and parent boards and other things you may feel obligated rather than excited to participate in. Find ways to plug in that fit your interests and schedule. 

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