Healthy Back-to-School Habits
By Alicia Hunsberger, Ed.S.
And, just like that, summer will be over and it will be time for school to begin again.
For many families, the end of summer is bittersweet. It can bring reflections on fun, longer days spent with family at the lake, while also conjuring up emotions ranging anywhere from nervous to excited about morning carpool, homework, and seeing old friends. While a summer break is helpful for students, school provides children with the necessary routines that allow for appropriate academic, social, and emotional development. In addition, schools work to provide an environment for children that will cultivate independence, curiosity, and social awareness about the world around them. Being part of a positive classroom and school community is an important piece of each child’s developmental experience.
The old adage “It takes a village” is sentimental of what great leaders hope for in their schools. The idea of collective responsibility is essential for raising children who will make the most of their school experience. This means that schools need parents who will work to provide routines in the home that are healthy and developmentally appropriate for their children. There are helpful ways that parents can be part of making the most of the end of summer to prepare every child for another wonderful year at school. Here are a few helpful habits to cultivate prior to the beginning of school:
- Implement a regular bedtime for children that is appropriate for their age and development. It is recommended that children ages three to five receive 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night, while those ages six to 13 receive nine to 11 hours.
- Establish expectations for children to wake up in the morning and complete necessary tasks to get their day started. A routine may include utilizing a morning checklist or visual for “to dos” such as brushing teeth, brushing hair, getting dressed, making the bed, etc. Establishing routines provides structure for children that need assistance completing tasks in a timely manner.
- Provide a healthy breakfast and time to sit down and eat. Studies show that this time and nutrition jump starts students’ metabolism, and helps with behavior and motivation throughout the school day.
- Encourage children to read EVERY DAY. Students who are reading and/or being read to every day are much more likely to succeed in school. Many people discount the value of reading daily, but this is one of the best ways to provide your child with a literature-rich environment that encourages habits that greatly surpass the effort that is required to read daily.
- Engage in positive conversations about school with your child. It is healthy to discuss children’s excitements and fears about school. When anxious, children need to know their voices are heard, and people care about their concerns. It is helpful to create a plan, rather than only working to reassure your child that “everything is going to be okay.” Validate their feelings. Help them problem solve.
Establishing norms in the home is healthy for every child. In addition, these routines can provide extra stability in homes of families needing support for children with disabilities. Setting routines can especially help students affected by memory loss, anxiety, communication delays, and additional behavioral and/or emotional needs. As you look forward to another great school year for your child, take time to establish routines that will prove to benefit and maximize your child’s learning experiences in school. Let the games begin!