Ask the Expert: Helping your Child Prepare for Going Back to School
by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist
As a mom of a thirteen year old, I understand the struggle that can ensue after a long summer of staying up late, sleeping in late, and having little to no structure to the day. Like the rest of the parents out there, I recognize the potential stress that comes along with trying to get kids back on a school time schedule. One thing I have learned the hard way? Don’t wait until the weekend before school starts! You can’t expect a smooth transition without some lead time. My best advice is to start early. By early, I mean at least one to two weeks before school starts.
Start the transition process by having a conversation with your child about the importance of settling back into a “school routine.” Like adults, kids need to understand the “why” behind change in order to embrace it and act on it. Let’s face it – if your kid is anything like mine, he will question it just because that’s his natural response to doing something that he doesn’t really want to do! Once your child is aware of why the change is necessary, he can more easily accept it and take the steps needed to do so.
Start by gradually decreasing how long your child stays up at night. It can be a little challenging at first, because he might not feel sleepy and you may get the argument my son gives, “It’s still daylight out.” As the days the pass, the argument’s validity will fade along with the summer sun. Remember, research shows that school-age children need at least 10 hours a sleep a night.
Once you have a grasp on the bedtime, begin incorporating a wake-up time that is reasonable for your child when he returns to school. Initially, you may need to allow for more time in the morning until you can tweak the routine for what works best.
As you begin to help your child reestablish a morning routine, keep in mind your child’s habits regarding waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and personal hygiene. If you already know that your child will require a little more time, allow for it from the beginning. If, for example, your child struggles to pick out her outfit in the morning, start planning outfits the night before. Allow time for your child to eat a healthy breakfast and have some “wake up” time if your child isn’t able to get alert easily and quickly. It can be stressful for a child, and a parent for that matter, to feel like they don’t have time to complete all the tasks that are required of them. The last thing you want for your child is to send them out the door to school already in a tiff from the morning!
So, start the process early, talk with your child about the transition, and be mindful of your child’s individual needs. Before long, you will be right back in the groove of things and have stress-free mornings and an eager learner to send off to school!
For more tips to help with the transition check out:
 Center for Disease Control