LiveSmart: Set Routines Now to Smooth Out Bumps in Transition Back to School

[This article was written by Mark Osborn, MD, Chief of Pediatrics, St. Peter’s Hospital, St. Peter’s Health Center for Children.]

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 camps are about to be replaced with new teachers, new friends, an unfamiliar classroom, earlier bedtimes 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. Now is a good time to reestablish realistic limits on screen time, especially before bedtime. Numerous studies have shown that kids – and adults! – benefit from avoiding electronics use (including smart phones, tablets, TV and video games) for an hour before bedtime.

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.

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.

Once school is back in session, doing homework does not have to be a painful process. 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.

Routines don’t always fit into lazy summer days, so re-establishing them over the next couple of weeks will make the transition back to the school much smoother.

St. Peter’s Health Center for Children, 1092 Madison Avenue in 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 visit

Homework Helpers

Give kids a required amount of study time so they don’t rush to play.

Pick a lighted study area and stock it with school supplies.

Remove distractions (TV/telephone/noise).

Set a good example: Read & write in front of your kids.

Show an interest in schoolwork/homework.


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