In the words of poet Geoffrey Chaucer, “All good things must come to an end.” And so it is with summer. As the back-to-school season arrives, kids must transition from the long, lazy days of summer to the busy routines of school. But parents can make some simple adjustments to help make that transition from summertime to school time just a little easier.

Gradually Adjust Bedtimes and Wake Times

There’s a reason why so many kids go to bed later and sleep in during the summer: Much of the summer is relatively unstructured for kids. Sure, there are occasional days that necessitate an early start—waking up early to get to camp or make it to swim team practice for example. But most parents allow their kids huge leeway in terms of their summer sleep schedules. A week or so before school starts, experts recommend setting a strict bedtime and making it 10 minutes earlier each subsequent night until it’s appropriate for school.

Similarly, wake them up (or set an alarm in their room) and make the wake-up time 5 or 10 minutes earlier each morning until they’re on an optimal schedule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get the following amount of sleep in a 24-hour period (naps included):

  • Children aged 3 to 5, 10 to 13 hours
  • Children aged 6 to 12, 9 to 12 hours
  • Children aged 13 to 18, 8 to 10 hours

Ease Into Healthy Eating Routines

Since a large chunk of most kids’ summer fun involves lounging around the house and blissfully doing nothing (often with friends in tow), there may be a large stash of junk food in your house. As summer winds down, let kids finish what’s on hand, but vow to replenish with healthy after-school snacks. Remember that what kids eat has an impact on how well they do in school.

Additionally, because summer is hot, many families opt for heat-and-eat meals or takeout over cooking. As summer ends, try to bring back healthy family dinners. It may require some work (planning out meals, cooking in advance on weekends, or firing up the slow cooker) but the entire family will benefit. And, last but not least, stock up on plenty of healthy breakfast items. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eating a healthy breakfast actually improves students’ test scores!

Brush up on the “Three Rs”

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are the building blocks of education. As school approaches, encourage your child to read for 30 minutes a day (or read to your young child). Check out the local teacher supply store (or look online) for math worksheets and exercises to help your child brush up on skills.

Take Steps to Ease Anxiety and Boost Confidence

Despite their grumbling about going back to school, many kids look forward to reuniting with old friends and meeting new friends and teachers. Other kids feel increasingly anxious and stressed about the prospect of starting school. Younger kids may dread separation from their parents and siblings, and older kids may worry about fitting in with their peers. Many schools hold open houses and meet-the-teacher events before the official start of the school year. Make sure to participate so your kids can begin to feel comfortable about their soon-to-be home away from home.

Additionally, boost their confidence and give them something to look forward to by taking them shopping for school supplies and clothes. You have to buy these things anyway, so why not allow your children to choose a few “special” items? If you can afford to splurge on the season’s must-have pair of shoes or brand of jeans, it will give your child a little confidence boost. Even letting kids pick out a backpack, lunch box, or folder that they love will make the prospect of going to school more exciting.

Back to school isn’t just a transition for students, it’s a transition for the entire family. Advance preparation will go a long way toward ensuring it’s a great year for all!

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