Back to school: Six ways to help your kids make a smooth transition
Switching from holidays to a structured school day can be challenging for children. With both a new preppie starting school and my eldest starting high school, I have been reflecting on how I can help make the transition a little easier.
Over the holidays we all experience that welcome loss of routine with late nights, sleepovers, dinners out with friends or trips away. So I was chatting to some mums at the beach about how we were planning to prepare for the first month of school. Here are my favourite tips that have really helped my children – and me – over the years:
- Get your kids back into their routine with set bed times.
Generally, school aged children between six and 12 years need nine to 11 hours of sleep, aiming for bed between 7.30 and 9pm. Children over 12 years need eight to 10 hours of sleep, aiming for bed between 9 and 10pm. These timeframes will ensure kids can concentrate and cope with their day without meltdowns or mood swings. To help them fall asleep more quickly and have more restful sleep it is best not to allow iPad use, TV watching or any other stimulating activities an hour before bed.
- Encourage a good breakfast.
Often when we are rushed in the morning we skip breakfast or reach for an overly sweetened commercial cereal. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it boosts energy levels and metabolism, which sets kids up to concentrate better and be more interested in learning. Many children who skip breakfast are actually heavier than those who don’t, partially because they may make poorer food choices later in the day because they are hungry. An egg, a low sugar cereal with fruit and yoghurt or wholemeal toast are good options. A fruit smoothie is great for those who don’t like to eat much.
- Don’t schedule too many activities.
We often get seduced into signing our kids up for every activity they ask for – swimming, gym, dancing, cricket, music lessons – only to find they are ratty and exhausted by the end of the week. This is especially true for little preps, who should probably do none or only one activity in the first term. Of course it depends on the child’s energy level but more than four activities in one week is usually too much and two to three is probably ideal.
- Aim for the NUDE lunch!
Nude foods are foods without excess packaging, and they have two great benefits: they reduce the amount of litter your child must find a bin for, and they are often healthier than their processed alternatives. We know that foods high in sugar and fat tend to give kids an immediate energy boost that is not sustained and can often leave them irritable and teary later in the day, not to mention the additional calories they don’t need. Try to avoid juice and cordial, sweet biscuits, packaged chips and lollies. Instead, go for cut fruit, rice crackers with a small container of dip, cut veggie sticks or frozen yoghurt sticks (great when it’s hot!). Wraps are good alternatives to sandwiches and can be filled with delicious ingredients like roast chicken or tuna, mayonnaise and grated cheese.
- Encourage your kids to drink lots of water.
Kids in my general paediatric clinic often complain of headaches and the first thing I always ask is how much water they drink during the day. Aim for kids to have a full drink bottle (approximately 600mls) by the time you pick them up, especially when it’s hot, as it often is in February.
- Apply and reapply sunscreen.
Most kids have to wear hats at recess and lunchtime, but they can still get sunburnt, especially on their arms and legs. Remember to apply sunscreen in the morning and pack extra sunscreen in their bags. The small roll on sunscreens are great as children can reapply it themselves, especially if they have afternoon sport.
Do you have any great back to school tips? Share them on Dr Margie’s Facebook post.