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4 Steps to Get the Kids Ready to Head Back to School

July 06, 2020

With COVID-19 still in the picture, no one quite knows yet what the first day of school will look like this year. But whether your kids are in a physical classroom or learning from home, going back to school requires some advanced prep work.

Think about it—when you return to work after a vacation, it takes a little time to gear yourself back up. The same is true for your kids when it comes to the classroom and learning.

They won’t be able to leap straight back to school without some growing pains, which is why it’s important to take some steps now to make the transition easier.

Kimberly Burch, MD

Kimberly Burch, MD, a pediatrician with West Tennessee Healthcare, has some tips she’d like to share to help your family prepare to go back to school

Back to School Tip 1: Reset the Sleep Schedule
The odds are that the “stay at home order” and more time spent in the home in general have led to a disruption in your normal schedule. And let’s face it—summer almost always brings a revised sleep schedule for kids who are staying up later and waking up later.

But when they go back to school, a consistent sleep schedule will be super important. Kids will need to wake up and be alert and attentive earlier in the day than they have been, which will take some adjustment.

Rather than waiting until the last minute to hit the reset button on your kids’ sleep, start several weeks ahead of the first day of school. Determine how much sleep is recommended for your kids based on their ages, then work backward in 15-minute increments until your child is going to sleep at an appropriate bedtime and waking up in time to go to school.

Back to School Tip 2: Choose a Backpack Carefully
Believe it or not, backpacks are a common cause of back pain in kids and teens. All too often, kids have backpacks that are too big for their age and size and filled to the max with heavy items.

So, if back to school for your child includes in-person learning, you’ll want to choose a backpack that’s safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends selecting a backpack that has wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.

What your child puts in the backpack and how he or she wears it is also important. Ensure your child’s loaded backpack weighs no more than around 15% of his or her body weight, and check it often to ensure it’s not too heavy. Coach your child to wear the backpack correctly, using both shoulder straps to avoid back and shoulder strain.

Back to School Tip 3: Talk Through Processes and Safety Measures
No matter what back to school looks like for your family, it will include some new processes this school year. For kids who will be learning from home, you’ll need to talk through the basics of how that will work and what is expected.

If in-person learning is planned, there will be more to talk about. Step your kids through new rules and regulations implemented at school, including extra safety and health measures.

Go over the basics of how to practice social distancing whenever possible—and if masks are required, find your children ones that they like and that are comfortable. It’s also important to talk through how to wear them correctly, ensuring that they fully cover the nose and mouth.

Reviewing handwashing basics also isn’t a bad idea. Even many adults slack on proper handwashing, so talk through washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time. Make sure your kids know to lather up all surfaces of their hands, including under the nails, and to fully wash off the residue.

Back to School Tip 4: Think Food
The back to school season also brings some changes to your family’s food routine. To keep everything running efficiently and not lose your sanity, plan ahead! 

Go ahead and take some time to come up with a handful of healthy breakfast and lunch ideas. These can be ready-made foods or homemade goodies; just make sure they contain a good blend of healthy carbs (like whole grains or fruit), lean protein and healthy fat (like what’s found in nut butter).

When you get closer to the first day of school, stock up the pantry and fridge with these foods so they’ll be easy to grab. Kids who are properly fueled will be more focused and able to learn!

Also plan ahead so that your entire family can sit down for dinner at least several times a week. This is so important! 

Family meals have been shown to provide kids with many benefits, including better academic performance, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of resilience, lower risk of substance abuse, lower risk of teen pregnancy, lower risk of depression, lower likelihood of developing eating disorders and lower rates of obesity.

An annual checkup is an important part of a back-to-school routine. Need a provider for your child? FIND ONE HERE.