By Dr. Victoria McEvoy, Harvard Pediatrician, for GALTime.com
Although we are still sweltering in the summer heat, school days are here--or are fast approaching. What can you do to prepare your children for the return of the routine? Sure it is o.k. that your children have continued to practice skills during the summer, enjoying camp activities, or playing with friends, but it's great that they have had a couple of months of unscheduled down time to learn to entertain themselves and even get a little bored. That way their batteries will be recharged. Now, it's time to start thinking about the rat-a tat craziness of the school year again. Here are some tips for pre-school preparation for the entire family:
1. Do a mental walk through of the weekly schedule to avoid the crazy school morning chaos.
2. Arrange carpools and negotiate driving duties with your spouse ahead of time.
3.Try to keep bedtimes close to school year bedtimes so that the circadian rhythms do not go haywire once school begins. Humans do better with consistent sleep patterns so the sooner the kids get back to the school sleep patterns, the better off they will be in the fall.
Also See: Can Sticking To Bedtime Make Kids Smarter?
4.Plan your yearly physical with your pediatrician well in advance. Many times parents wait until the last minute to schedule a physical and then find there are no openings. Schools require certain immunizations and a health form. Be sure to renew your child's medications at the visit and get permission forms for the school for any medication that has to be given at school- many schools require a physician signature for these.
5. Young children often have separation anxiety at the start of school. This can be prevented by arranging play dates with a classmate or perhaps a visit to the school in the summer.
Also See: HELP! My Child Is Anxious About School
6. Include family exercise every day. It can be challenging to get outdoor activity once the weather turns colder, but it is much easier if the family builds a schedule each day around physical outdoor activity. Biking, swimming, walking, baseball, soccer, tennis, and basketball are all activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family. If you have a family dog, include the kids in the daily walks.
7. Control the junk food. We all love to eat ice cream and hot dogs in the summer not to mention salty chips, but summer is a good time to build good eating habits. Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available and this is a habit we should carry into the fall.
Also See: Healthy After School Snacks
8. If your kids aren't back to school yet, an hour a day of reading will encourage a wonderful addiction to books and help ease into the school year. If your child does not yet read, include story hour at bedtime.
9. Limit television watching; there are few benefits to this passive and sometimes harmful activity. I have yet to read a study saying that T.V. watching is better than one on one interaction with a parent.
A little planning goes a long way to making the transition back to school easier for the kids. Ideally the children will be well rested, fit, and maybe a little bored by the time fall rolls around so that they can look forward to jumping back into the academic calendar. Organization will be key to lowering anxiety for mom and dad, too!
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