Now is the time to get ready for school

Contributing ColumnistAugust 2, 2014 

In a couple of weeks, most Kentucky children will be heading back to school. And while most kids would much rather spend the day at the pool or playing outside, even those who are eager to return to class must adjust to the greater levels of activity, structure and pressures associated with school.

Parents can help their children (and the rest of the family) manage the increased pace of life by planning ahead, being realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude. Here are a few suggestions to help ease the transition:

Have a family meeting: In a fun and light-hearted manner, meet as a group to discuss the weeks ahead and how each member of the family can help ease the transition back to school. Involving your children in the decision-making can be extremely productive; they may surprise you with time-saving ideas you haven't considered. Also discuss any worries your children may have about the upcoming year.

Re-establish routines: During the summer, routines get out of whack. So one or two weeks before school starts, re-establish bed and meal routines. Breakfast is particularly important; studies show that kids who eat a healthy breakfast function better in school, have better concentration and more energy. Children who eat a breakfast containing protein will stay full longer.

Adequate sleep is another crucial factor in whether children are ready to learn, so re-establishing a bedtime that ensures an adequate amount of sleep is important. Reintroduce pre-bedtime reading if this was suspended during the summer.

Turn off the TV: Encourage your child to read, play quiet games or color as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. Consider limiting after-school or evening television use during the school week as well.

Get a jump on the social life: Try to arrange get-togethers with some of your child's classmates before school starts and during the first weeks of school to help your child re-establish friendships.

Clear your own schedule: Postpone nonessential trips and extra projects. This will free you to help your child acclimate to the school routine. Try to make evening meals together a priority, especially during the first few weeks of school, so that you can discuss how school is going and identify any problems that may arise.

Focus on health: Make sure that your child has had necessary immunizations and examinations prior to the start of school. Talk with them about the importance of washing their hands to decrease their exposure to illnesses.

Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence your children's attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. Just a few lifestyle adjustments can help smooth the transition from summer to school.

Dr. Donna Grigsby, is chief of the division of Pediatrics at UK HealthCare

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