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How to Ease Your Child Back into a New School Year

Kids running out of bus

A new school year is always a time of transition for both parents and kids. This is especially true for the 2021-22 school year. After what may have been more than 15 months of virtual or hybrid learning—it’s helpful to take some extra steps to prepare your kids for a smooth return to the classroom.

Review Your School’s Safety Precautions

The more you can get your children ready for what lies ahead, the more confidently they will navigate the transition from online learning (and summer fun) to onsite school.

Learn what safety precautions your school will have in place and review them as a family. If your child or other family members are at high-risk for COVID-19 complications, explain that they may need to take precautions that are different from their friends to help keep everyone safe. And always reinforce the importance of good hygiene like frequent hand washing (or sanitizing) and covering coughs and sneezes.

From Summer to Structure

If you’re like many parents, you likely let bedtime and other structured routines slide a bit as your family enjoyed the more relaxed pace of summer. That can be a good thing (especially this summer) until the school year begins. A little planning makes the return to classes, extracurricular activities, and homework easier for everyone—especially your child.

Start Early to Reconnect

While getting away for one last trip may sound like a great way to end the summer, everyone in the family may benefit more by staying home. Use that final week or so to re-establish the school-day rhythm and help put your child at ease. Read on for some tried-and-true tips.

  • Arrange play dates with friends from school to re-establish connections that may have been dropped for the summer...or create new ones!
  • Move bedtime to an earlier time. Insufficient sleep is linked to lower academic performance and health issues in all ages of children and adolescents—and adults, for that matter. You may be surprised how much sleep is recommended:
    • Children 3 to 5 years of age--10 to 13 hours (including naps)
    • Children 6 to 12 years of age--9 to 12 hours
    • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age--8 to 10 hours
  • Have your child practice getting up and dressed at the same time every morning. Start eating breakfast, lunch, and snacks around the times your child will eat when school is in session.
  • Get your child used to leaving the house in the morning by planning activities the week of two before school begins. Hustling your child out the door will be less painful if summer habits like relaxing in PJs after breakfast are broken in advance.

Preparing Emotionally for the First Day

If your child seems nervous—which is more likely as they return to school after the height of the pandemic—gently remind them there a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may happen at any age. Fortunately, teachers know students have jitters and will make an extra effort to put them at ease.

  • Create positive anticipation by reminding your child how much fun it will be to see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh positive memories about previous years.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride the bus.
  • If your child is entering a new school, attend any available orientations and take the opportunity to tour the school before the first day.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

With just a little bit of planning and TLC, your child will be off and running to a successful school year. Keep the lines of communication open and try to quickly address any concerns they raise as they ease back into their routine.

author name

Christine M. Stabler, MD, MBA

Christine Stabler, MD, MBA, FAAFP is Medical Director of Women’s Health for Lancaster General Health, a family medicine physician with LG Health Physicians Women's Internal Medicine, and Vice President of Academic Affairs. She is a graduate of Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. She completed her residency at Lancaster General Hospital and a fellowship at Temple University Hospital.

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About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.

 

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