[This piece was written by Mark Osborn, M.D., Chief of Pediatrics for St. Peter’s Hospital, and a provider with St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center.]
After what seemed like endless summer fun, going back to school can be filled with both excitement and anxiety for parents and children, especially younger students. The ice cream truck, swimming pool and summer camp are about to be replaced with new teachers, new friends, an unfamiliar classroom, earlier bed times and homework … and kids feel the strain.
Getting back into a routine BEFORE school starts is the key to making those first days of school less painful. Now is the time to start easing into it.
Early morning and bedtime routines are the most important. Kids are more likely to feel comfortable and cooperate when they can anticipate what is coming next. A relaxed schedule with one-on-one face time and a nutritious breakfast is a great start.
An unhurried bedtime routine is a must. Set aside quiet time with your children at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Reading books and taking baths during this time will help them wind down. Allowing them to choose the books you read together, or letting them read to you, can help make the routine more fun and more likely to stick around.
Doing homework does not have to be a painful process either. Set a regular time for homework so that it’s an expectation and a positive experience, not a punishment. Perhaps you could read or pay bills during homework time, as well.
By encouraging kids to start reading now (if they haven’t been already), as little as 20 minutes a day can help them look at those first chapters assigned by their teacher much differently. And remember: reading won’t always seem like a chore if kids also have the chance to read books or magazines they enjoy.
Routines don’t always fit into lazy summer days, but it’s best to keep them around as much as possible to make the transition back to the school routine much smoother.
St. Peter’s Children’s Health Center, 1092 Madison Avenue, Albany, offers a complete range of services for children from newborns to age 18. Services include well-child routine care, sick child exams, school and camp physicals, sports physicals, immunizations, health maintenance and education, and access to other hospital services and referrals to specialists. Call 518-525-2445 for more information or an appointment.