Summertime is coming to an end, and with that comes all of the back to school anxiety and jitters that are common among kids and parents. Your kids may experience the common physical effects of anxiety associated with back to school time – ranging from stomach aches to sleeping problems. They may also experience emotional stress from the fear of making new friends, meeting new teachers, fear of being bullied, pressure of getting good grades, and worries of being unpopular. With that said, it’s important for us as parents to first remember that these physical and emotional feelings are very common, and even the most well adjusted kids are bound to feel some sort of pressure when they return back to school.
The question becomes: what can we do to help our kids cope with the physical and emotional stresses associated with the back to school season? Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide some tips that I’ve shared with parents over the years which have been most helpful. Let’s get started with number one …
Tip #1: Put your kids on a healthy sleeping pattern right away!
Kids need an average of 8 to 10 hours of REM sleep each night. Kids that don’t get adequate sleep the night before tend to be groggy, grumpy, and thus have a harder time concentrating in class – not to mention tend to become more sensitive to social disputes. Sleep also contributes to a healthier immune system. You can help your child enter each school day with more energetic and positive approach simply by making sure they get the right amount of sleep each night.
Here’s how to set a healthy sleeping pattern with your kids:
- Establish a set bedtime and wake up time for the weekdays. Make sure you specify that this time is non-negotiable.
- Set up some rules for 1 hour prior to bedtime. There are many things that can affect how well your kids sleep at night. If you set up some ground rules, then you’ll see better sleeping habits:
- Make sure they eat dinner no later than 1 hour prior to bedtime. If they eat just before bedtime chances are they won’t fall asleep right away. A glass of warm milk or a little bit of fruit before bed is ok if they’re hungry.
- Cut out all physical activities no later than 1 hour before bedtime. Kids need adequate downtime to get their heart rate down.
- Cut out any intense “stimulating” activities no later than 1 hour before bedtime. This includes video games and computers. Both can be very addictive and keep your kids eyes over stimulated even after they’ve stopped.
- Establish a 20-30 minute nightly “calm-down” bedtime routine. The routine should include taking a bath/shower, putting on their pajamas, reading, and other relaxing activities. TV viewing at bedtime is not recommended because it may affect your kids ability to fall asleep.
Reflect back to when you were a kid and think of how you would have parented yourself. What would you do differently than your parents? What would you (or do you already) do the same? Life is a mystery and an adventure. Both good and bad experiences are part of life, and can help you understand your kids a little better. Keep this blog in mind and refer to it when you feel like you need a little parenting boost. Hopefully one day you’ll share these tips with your kids as they enter adulthood and become parents themselves!
Next week we’ll talk about getting your kids on a “brain-strengthening diet”!
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