Get Your Kids Back in the School Routine

3 tips for easing the transition
School bus illustration

And they’re off! No more scrambling for school supplies or the perfect back-to-school outfit. But the prep work isn’t over just yet. Ensure the new academic year gets off to as smooth a start as possible with these tips from Cleveland Clinic experts.

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1. Reset their sleep schedule

If your child or teenager stayed up late and slept in during the summer, it’s understandably hard for them to head out the door for class energetically and do their best.

“Parents often underestimate the effect that sleep has on their children when the new school year is starting,” says Jyoti Krishna, MD, who treats pediatric sleep disorders at Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center. School-aged children ages 6 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, and kids 12 to 18 should get nine hours.

Still, don’t expect to your kids to be able to go to bed one to two hours earlier immediately without a struggle. “It’s best to adjust their bedtime by 15 minutes to a half-hour over the next week to 10 days,” Dr. Krishna says. Even if you forgot to start adjusting their sleep schedule before school started, a gradual transition is still best to avoid them feeling near jetlagged.

Getting complaints of the, “But I’m NOT tired!” variety? Encourage your child to unwind before bed, with no electronics — that means no TV, texting or web surfing — at least one hour before bed. The type of light emitted from these devices can cause difficulty sleeping. Instead, keep activities low key to promote healthy sleep.

“Kids need structure and clear expectations to be able to do their best.”

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2. Foods to fuel their success

Breakfast is the most important meal of your child’s day all year around, says Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric dietitian Tara Harwood, RD.

“While it may be challenging to get your child or teen to eat in the morning, it is a battle worth fighting,” Harwood says. “Research shows that not only does a healthy breakfast of whole grains and low-fat milk improve school concentration performance, it also helps them maintain a healthy weight.”

De-stress your mornings by picking fast and healthy options: Think whole-grain waffles, hot or cold cereal, scrambled eggs, or yogurt with fruit and nuts.

It’s also important to plan lunches ahead of time to make sure your kids have options that are healthy, varied and that they actually want to eat. Be creative. It doesn’t have to be a sandwich. Consider packing whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, and fresh fruits and vegetables instead.

3. Rein in their routine

After playing outside until dusk all summer, it’s hard for many kids to give up a care-free lifestyle. But it is best to set and enforce school year schedules right from the start, says Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatrician Angelique P. Redus-McCoy, MD, FAAP.

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“Kids need structure and clear expectations to be able to do their best,” Dr. Redus-McCoy says. Let your kids know how much time they have to decompress once they get home from school — and when you expect them to tackle their homework.

Establish a dedicated place where they can complete their homework each night, without distractions. “Make sure it’s a quiet spot where they can concentrate — no TV, no texting.”

You also can take some of the craziness out of being newly back to school by enlisting their help in the prep work. “Try having your kids help pack their lunch for the next day, get their backpack ready and pick out their clothes the night before,” Dr. Redus-McCoy suggests. “This can help reduce everyone’s stress first thing in the morning.”

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