Summer means a break from everything school-related — from bedtimes to bullies. All should be addressed well before Labor Day to smooth the transition for children, says Abraham Bartell, MD, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “Children need a week or two to retrain their brains and bodies to return to a full day of school,” he says.
Consider taking a staycation for the last week or two before school, moving bedtime 15 to 30 minutes earlier each night. “All school-aged children, ages 6 through 18, need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night,” Dr. Bartell says. “Stopping screen time one hour before bedtime, limiting overstimulating video games and eating a meal that’s not too large or too small will promote a full night’s sleep.” Involve younger children in school preparation and test new lunches and snacks, so children aren’t trying things for the first time at school, he says. Encourage children to read with you at bedtime or write in a journal about their summer adventures. “This reintroduces the process of sitting down, thinking, reading and writing.” Middle school and high school students also need attention and preparation. The solution could be as simple as back-to-school shopping: “Have them select a few new pieces they’re excited about wearing.”
If your child had stopped taking medication over the summer, now is the time to reintroduce it and adjust dosage. And if the child is anxious about bullies or making friends, make time to talk about it — with you or a therapist.