Whether your child has spent the summer as a zombie in front of a glowing screen or as a blue-lipped prune in the Pacific, every kid has some trouble getting back to school. But if parents do their homework, families can ease into the school routine.
The trick is to start early. Mental stimulation during the summer helps gear a child up for learning, physical activity and healthy eating habits keeps them focused and disciplined, and bedtimes that hone as closely as possible to school nights make it easier for a child to prepare for those early morning classes.
If you weave these healthy habits into your summer, that first school bell will sound far less alarming.
Sleep contributes to overall health, growth and behavior. That said, it is understandable for parents to be lax about sleep routines. The sun goes to bed later, why shouldn’t your kid?
To transition from summer nights to school nights, start early and proceed gradually. About two weeks before school starts, shorten your child’s bedtime by 10-20 minutes each night. If bedtime is normally 9 p.m. but has slipped to 10 p.m. over the summer, it should take about six days to get back to normal.
There is no reason to continue studying as if the school year hadn’t ended, but summer is not a time to turn off your brain, either. Many schools require kids to do some homework over the summer, and it’s important to continue those good habits even after that summer assignment is complete.
Make sure they’re reading, and dedicate a little time each day to learning something new. Safari parks, automotive museums and aquariums are all also great places to learn while having fun. You can also use the summer months to teach a kid to tie his shoe, read a clock or identify currency denominations. These are basic concepts that are easily taught when nobody is worrying about getting out the door on time or waking up early the next day.
I caution parents to limit screen time in much the same way they do during the school year. Get your kids outside, riding a bike, swimming, walking around. Let them discover what’s around them.
Putting them in front of a screen all day will only create an anti-social child. Remember that unless your child is independently wealthy, you bought that device they keep staring at, you are entitled to put rules in place about its use. Cumulative combined screen time should be limited to two hours a day.
Not only is breaking from the screen good for social awareness, it’s better for cognitive processes. When you’re in a contemplative environment, you can innovate and get great ideas. Nobody every composed a poem or thought of a breakthrough product while playing Minecraft.
Summer is chockfull of sweets and barbecues. It’s also a time of fresh fruits and vegetables. Keep treats to a minimum and encourage kids to enjoy healthy summer food options. This can be harder to do if you’re on a family vacation, but almost any menu always has a veggie or salad option. The important thing is moderation. If your kids get accustomed to ice cream every day in August, they’re going to go through withdrawal come September.
Parents who are aware that their child might resist a shift in habits often procrastinate and then stress out at summer’s end. Instead, talk to your kids. Ask about their goals for the year and the extracurriculars they want to do.
Maintain healthy eating, living, and sleeping habits during the summer, and by the time your kid trades in her flip-flops for sneakers, she’ll be able to put her best foot forward.