“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I’m reminded of a back-to-school commercial in which the father is ecstatically shopping for school supplies while this song is playing in the background. As we enter a new school year, now is a good time to establish or reestablish daily routines and healthy sleep habits. A new school year can be a stressful time for both parents and children.
Children adjust to changes more effectively when their daily routines are predictable and steady. Parents can discuss routines with family members to ensure they achieve what needs to get done. Anticipating “things to do” in the upcoming weeks can keep your family organized, especially families with working parents and/or children with multiple after-school activities.
Morning routines include waking up early enough to eat a healthy breakfast, keeping the ambience cheerful and positive and giving your child a hug or wishing them a good day. Routines for after school might include eating a healthy snack, tackling homework assignments and, afterwards, allowing time for leisurely activities, such as play or relaxation. Even if your children don’t have any homework, encouraging them to read a book for fun will have a positive impact on their learning. If your children or teens have after-school activities or jobs, then time management skills can be learned to help them organize their day. Items such as planners, calendars and smart phone apps can come in handy, too.
Evening routines involve family dinners where family members are encouraged to discuss the day’s events. This can be a valuable opportunity to get your child or teenager to open up about anything on their mind. The evenings are also a good time to prepare tomorrow’s lunch and assist with picking out their clothes for the next day. During this time, you can also help to ensure homework assignments are done and encourage studying for any upcoming tests. Signing any notes/forms and placing them in their backpacks the night before will decrease the chances of forgetting them the next morning.
Good sleep habits
Consistently going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time allows for adequate sleep. The practice of story-telling or bedtime reading (or any nighttime ritual) helps transition your child into sleep. Limiting electronic use for older children and teenagers will produce better quality of sleep. A lack of the recommended amount of sleep can result in poor behavior in children. In teens, inadequate sleep can result in poor memory, decreased attention, lower academic functioning and increased moodiness. It’s recommended for children to get nine to 12 hours of sleep at night and for teenagers to get eight to 10 hours of sleep at night.
Developing and enforcing these routines takes time and effort. Once your child or teenager realizes the value of these routines and how they can result in positive outcomes, they will be encouraged to use them even as they mature. Not only will these healthy routines ease the challenges of entering a new school year, they will also keep your children successful.
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