As the lazy, hazy days of summer wind down, many parents (and some children) are ready to get back to the routine of the school year. That routine is one of the key ingredients of a successful back-to-school experience. Try out these back to school tips to make your adjustment back into the school year routine a smoother one.
After a summer of what was most likely a fluctuating bed time, reintroducing the school-night bedtime can be a challenge. It’s easiest if you gradually work back into it instead of waiting until the night before the first day. About a week before school starts, gradually start moving bedtime closer to what it will be during the school year. Move it up 20 or 30 minutes every evening until you’re back on track. Also start re-establishing a bedtime routine — bath/shower, brushing teeth, reading, etc. Whatever your school year routine is, get started with that now.
What’s your typical morning routine? If your child uses an alarm clock, start setting that now and gradually work into the time he or she will have to wake for school. If you are your child’s alarm clock, do the same thing and start waking him or her up earlier about a week before school starts so day one isn’t made more difficult by a sleepy student.
Make sure your child’s physical and health forms are up to date and turned in. If you need a sports physical, call for an appointment today. If it hasn’t been 12 months since the last sports physical, your doctor’s office may be able to complete the form for you without an exam, but please note that sports physicals always need to be dated after April 15th of the previous academic year.
If your child has any chronic health conditions or allergies, be sure to work with the school to complete necessary forms and ensure they understand and are prepared to give any treatments during school hours. If your child does not already, we strongly encourage children with allergies and chronic health conditions to wear a medical alert bracelet (there are many great styles available today).
Pack it Up
When shopping for a backpack, be sure to focus on function and fit. Your child’s backpack should fit comfortably over both shoulders and the weight of the backpack should be centered between the waist and shoulders. Bags with loose straps that sag down to a child’s behind put extra strain on his her back and neck.
Make mornings easier by packing the backpack the night before. At least for the first few weeks, go over the packing with your child by asking questions about homework, permission slips, etc. Also tuck an emergency contact card with your name, address and phone number on it. A whistle that can be used only in emergencies is also a good idea.
If your child will be walking or riding a bike to school, take some practice runs. Make sure he or she knows the route and how to carefully cross a street. Also make sure your child knows your address, phone number and even your name — many lost or confused children simply know their mom is named mom. If he’ll be riding a bike or scooter, make sure he’s wearing a properly fitting helmet — even if school is only one or two blocks away! For those of you driving your children to school, be mindful of the students walking or biking along the way. Driving in and around a school requires your full attention, so save those phone calls for later.
The most dreaded part of back to school is often the homework. Setting a routine makes homework time easier for everyone, but be flexible in creating that routine to consider your child’s personality. If your child works best when homework is done immediately after school, then make that the routine. If your child needs to unwind after school before launching into homework, maybe after dinner is a better homework time. Pick a routine that works and keep to it. Be supportive during homework time by creating an atmosphere conducive to learning — try to keep the noise and distractions to a minimum and be available to help when needed.
Without open access to your fridge and pantry at home, lunches and snacks require a little more planning during the school year. If your school has a lunch program, review the menu to see what days your child may be purchasing a lunch. If your child brings a lunch, it’s a great idea to have three or four “menu” items that are healthy and that your child likes. Keep those ingredients on hand. Also be aware of any policies the school may have about bringing food into the school. Some schools prohibit nut products or other food items.
With a little planning and some solid routines, back to school can be a great time for everyone. In the midst of all the planning and organizing, don’t forget to simply enjoy your child. There are a limited number of back-to-school years for parents — enjoy every one of them!
Take the next step:
- Check out other back to school tips for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Learn more about U-M pediatricians at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
- Check out other blog posts for parents from pediatricians at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Lindsey Ann Loew, MD, was born in Seoul, South Korea, and adopted at 3 months of age. She grew up in Colorado. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University and her medical degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Dr. Loew completed her residency in Pediatrics at the University of Michigan. She and her husband enjoy outdoor activities including summer festivals, kayaking, hiking and shopping at Ann Arbor’s outdoor farmer’s market. Dr. Loew sees patients at Saline Health Center.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.