Back to School on the Right Foot

August 21, 2019

Lynne Raju, MS, LMFT works with parents and children in Exton, Pennsylvania. Read on to learn how to prepare your children for a prosperous school year. 

Children will be back to school soon. This can be a stressful time for them because it means new teachers, classmates, schedules, and routines. These changes can trigger anxiety in children and their families. Establishing a routine early and getting sufficient sleep can ease your child’s transition back to school.

Sleep has a significant impact on a child’s overall health. Lack of sleep can effect children’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Studies have shown that children who do not get enough sleep are at risk of high blood pressure and obesity. Inadequate amounts of sleep can cause angry outbursts, impatience, difficulty concentrating, and other behavior problems. Johns Hopkins recommends the following amount of sleep based on age group:

• Infants under 1 year: 12-16 hours
• Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
• Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
• Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
• Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours

It is normal for children to not have to adhere to a strict routine during the summer. As school approaches, it is important to get your children back on a schedule to help facilitate a good sleep routine. It is recommended that 2-3 weeks prior to the start of school, begin putting your children to sleep at a set time so they can get the recommended hours of sleep as listed above. Bedtimes should be fixed at least 2-3 weeks before school starts; the earlier you can start the better. It takes roughly three weeks to adopt a new habit. Also, begin waking the children up earlier as if they are going to school. Getting children into the habit of waking up earlier aids the transition from summer to school.

Children thrive with routine and structure; you need to regulate children’s sleep and meal times. They may initially push back against the structured routine but this is something parents/guardians need to stand firm on. Ensure children are waking up early to a good and balanced meal. Also, include meal times for lunch and dinner. Structure their days with productive things to do and begin reducing screen time to align with the amount of screen time they are typically allowed during the school year. You can make sure your children finished their summer reading and have refreshed their minds on last year’s math which will allow them to start the new school year on the right foot. Creating an eating and sleeping routine will regulate children’s minds and bodies to be healthier for the new school year.