It’s that time of year again, when most of us are slowly and perhaps painfully getting back into the school routine. Summer’s over, and although this may be a time to rejoice for many of us parents who have run out of ideas to keep the little ones entertained or are simply fed up with being on child duty 24/7, it brings with it a different set of challenges. ‘Back to school’ involves getting back to a routine, especially where mealtimes and bedtime are concerned.
Naturally, during the summer months, routines are more lenient and days are leisurely. For many children, getting back onto a strict schedule can be somewhat of a shock, and it can take them several days to adjust. If you can, it’s best to reset bedtime gradually (20 minutes every 2 days), over a period of a week or so, together with waking time of course. That way, when your child has to sleep and wake-up early for school, they’re prepared for it. Do expect them to be a little nervous the night before the first day of school. As long as they make up for it the following night, don’t worry.
If during the summer, your children have gotten used to having a later breakfast, or are going without one at all and simply snacking when they get hungry, then re-introducing a timely breakfast is essential. A good and healthy meal at the start of their school day will help fuel them for the day ahead, especially as they get used to the long hours of concentration that are required.
Most children take a packed snack and lunch to school. It’s a good idea to think through a week’s worth of these in advance, to ensure that you have all the ingredients you need. Your children can take part in choosing what goes in their lunchbox as well as help make it. There are a few fun ways of doing this, such as some mobile phone applications, which help you build a healthy lunchbox.
Its important that your children get a balanced diet that provides them a steady and slow release of ‘fuel’ throughout the day, to avoid sudden surges or plunges of energy and resulting fatigue. Of course, the occasional treat is necessary I think, as long as this happens only during the weekends or under special circumstances.
A good way of setting a routine is to write a simple schedule or flowchart, and hang it somewhere your child has access to. This can be a simple check-list of tasks that need to be completed in the morning, such as ‘wake-up’, ‘breakfast’, brush teeth’, and so on. This helps them ease into a routine in a way that’s fun and gives them a little control.
At the beginning of the school year, you often have to provide your child’s medical information and vaccination record. This is an excellent time to review these and make sure that everything is up to date and that your child has had his/her annual check-up, both medical and dental. Book those appointments if you haven’t done so already.
We’ve now just stepped into ‘influenza season’ and have in fact just recently diagnosed our first couple of cases at the clinic. The influenza vaccine is an excellent way to protect your children and yourselves from contracting the most common strains and this season’s vaccine is now available. This is definitely something that I highly recommend you give your children at the beginning of the school year.
It’s very common for children to feel anxious on starting school. You may even get a complete refusal of going to school. It’s important that you don’t show your child that you’re nervous for them, and to reiterate, time and time again, that you understand how they feel and that it’s completely normal, and that most of the other children feel the same way. Remind them of friends they missed over the summer and of activities at school they enjoy doing, like swimming or music. Try to remain calm and positive throughout this process, as this reinforces your child’s ability to cope with returning to school.
Afterschool or weekend play dates during the first few weeks can make things easier for your child. These help them renew old friendships or make new ones in a comfortable environment away from the pressures of being at school.
Why not leave your child a little note or message in their lunchbox? This reminds them that you love them and are thinking of them. What could be more thoughtful or comforting?
If you’re excited and happy about school, then your children are likely to have the same attitude. Why not adopt a yearly “back to school” tradition, such as a special “last day of summer” outing, movie or family dinner? This will help bring a wonderful summer to an end and celebrate the start of what is hopefully a happy, healthy and successful school year!