As summer vacations across the country come to a close, it’s time for families to prepare for another school year. This typically involves getting school supplies and buying new clothes, but adjustments to their schedules are also in order. In addition to the optimism and excitement your kids will express, they may also feel stress, anxiety and irritation.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve the mental health of your children as they prepare for a new school year. Since every child is different, talking to your child psychiatrist about your individual needs is a great place to start. Then, follow these tips:
First, work on sleep schedules. It’s customary to allow children to stay up later during the summer, but if possible, you should start adjusting bedtimes about two weeks before school begins. Children who don’t get enough sleep do not do as well in school on average. Their focus and attention is more limited and they may not follow directions as well. Talk to your children and come to an agreement about an appropriate bedtime based on when they will need to wake up. Gradually adjust summer bedtimes until they reach their school night bedtime. They may not enjoy going to bed earlier before they have to, but they’ll love how good they feel on the first week of school.
In addition, focus on getting adequate rest yourself. As a parent, when you get enough sleep you’ll have more patience and energy to manage your children’s schedule. You will also be more responsive to your children’s needs and will stay healthier through cold and flu season.
If your children have ADHD, make an appointment with the psychiatrist to see if medication levels need to be adjusted or different treatment options would be better. Children change as they age and their needs may be different as they advance in school. If your child is on the autism spectrum, make sure the autism and Asperger’s treatment is up-to-date as well. Children with behavioral disorders can have a productive school year with some extra help and attention.
Finally, get your children back into “thinking mode.” Kids get a lengthy break from academia when they’re given the entire summer off, and once they’re back in school they will be expected to remain focused all day. To make the adjustment easier, it is important to get them used to thinking about learning again.
A week or two before school starts, set aside some time every day for learning. This could mean reading books together, reviewing what they learned in school last year or playing academic games that require focus. Depending on your children’s levels of development and personalities, take into consideration how challenging the work will be. Give them plenty of breaks and reward their successes.
Incorporating these tasks into your children’s routine will improve their mental health and ease the transition into a successful and productive new school year.