Where has summer gone? It seems as though yesterday school was just out. Children all across Oklahoma have been splashing in local pools, playing with neighborhood friends and attending summer camp. Many families have taken vacations as well. Kids stay up late and sleep in often past 10 a.m. Now is the time to get back on schedule time-wise. It won’t be long before these children trade in a bathing suit and bicycle for school clothes and backpacks. Our bodies can quickly adjust to the school schedule of getting up early and going to bed at a reasonable time to afford the body plenty of rest for supreme efforts in school in just a few days.
For some students, whether having been in school or this is the first year, starting school can cause some anxiety. For pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, this is a major milestone for them and their parents. School is a place away from home where children will have some of their greatest challenges, successes, failures and embarrassments. Starting school can be fun and stressful at the same time. School is a place where a child will learn about how the world works, as well as about his or her own strengths, weaknesses and interests. For many children it will be their first experience away from home and their parents. Other children may feel some anxiety because they are starting at a new school. Some parents may face some anxiety themselves, letting go, which can add to a child’s hesitance or reluctance. A child’s experience starting school can be influenced by a parent’s feelings and attitudes. It is important for parents to be positive and have a good attitude toward school in order to help their child succeed.
Several days before school begins, establish or re-establish a school routine. The night before pack the backpack and make a lunch, if not purchasing one at school. Then decide what clothes are to be worn and lay them out for quick access in the morning. Make sure to discuss with the child what the weather will be like and what activities may be encountered during or after school on the all important first day. Morning comes early either with the use of an alarm or a parent/sibling waking up the child. Awaken a child to allow enough time for a healthy breakfast. What constitutes a healthy breakfast? Breakfast should include foods from at least 3 of the food groups. Try to encourage a dairy source, hopefully at least an eight ounce serving, whether it is milk to drink, pouring milk on cereal or eating a container of yogurt. Next, encourage a whole grain. Encourage your family to eat half of our daily grains as whole grains. These include whole wheat bread made into toast, an English muffin or bagel that is whole wheat, whole grain cereal such as Raisin Bran or Wheat Chex. To round out the healthy meal include a serving of fresh fruit such as fresh strawberries, a piece of cantaloupe, or a banana. If possible choose a fruit that is high in vitamin C. Encouraging a glass of water along with the foods will maintain hydration for the start of the school day.
Many homes establish a routine or house rules which include getting dressed, personal hygiene, making the bed and eating a healthy breakfast before the television or electronic games are turned on. Try to eat breakfast as a family to discuss the day’s activities and encourage positive thoughts for the remainder of the day. Studies have shown that students who start the day with a nutritious breakfast make better grades, are better able to concentrate and make fewer mistakes than non-breakfast eaters. If the mornings are rushed, the child may be able to eat breakfast at school. Most schools offer a breakfast program either in the cafeteria or in the classroom.
Once the day is over, establish an afternoon/evening routine. This helps children learn what is expected of them and makes bedtime easier. Establish a regular time to work on any homework or school projects. Set aside some time to review the child’s school papers. Parents can show support and enthusiasm by displaying artwork and other papers on the refrigerator, wall or even taking them to work. Encourage the child to show and tell what he/her has learned at school that day. School work, practicing an instrument and sports practice will take precedence over watching television or playing electronic games. Make time for a family meal in the evening. Planning ahead by preparing the food the night before or cooking something in a slow cooker can save time and improve the nutritional content of the meal. Also, it is very important for children to get an adequate amount of sleep. Younger school-age children need from 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
Establishing a nighttime routine can make bedtime much more relaxing for everyone. This may include taking a shower/bath, reading a picture/story book, listening to soft music or just sharing with a parent. This helps to provide some calm moments that relax the brain and body for a restful night of sleep. This quiet time gives a child a feeling of security and provides a parent with a wonderful opportunity to learn about what is going on in the child’s life.