If Your Kids Haven't Been To School Since Spring 2020, We've Got Work To Do Now

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I felt like we had so much more time left to relax and enjoy our summer, but my kids informed me they go back to school at the end of August. I know for certain I am not ready. My kids have not been in school full time since March of 2020.

If I’m not ready, I’m sure as shit that they aren’t ready. We’re all going to be floundering, to say the least. And even though my kids are teenagers and will be going to high school, I need to get a plan in place on how to make this transition easier for all of us.

This is something I say I am going to do every year, then I don’t; the summer funnies get to me and I tell myself life is too short to get back into a routine any earlier than you have to.

Then, I’m filled with regret, irritation, and come up with a whole new way to say swear words because I somehow think that will magically and instantly propel them into school-mode. (It never does.)

So, if you are finding yourself in the same boat and wondering how in the hell you are going to get your kids (at least partly) prepared for the school year that is practically knocking down our front doors, we’ve got some tips for you.

Just like my kids have, I am sure your kids have enjoyed going to bed later and sleeping later. This can slowly turn your early riser into a noon riser and leave you wondering how you are going to reverse the spell.

Pauline Bridgeman, MD, a general internist and pediatrician with MU Health Care, says the key is to get a jump on this early — not the night before they are to return to school. “Instead, consider building in a weeklong buffer toward the end of the summer where you adjust your kids’ bedtimes and wake up times in 15- to 30-minute increments every other day,” Bridgeman says.

MU Health states most kids who are attending school need 9-11 hours of sleep, so start by figuring out when they need to be out of bed to have the least amount of drama in the morning (this varies from child to child, of course) and to “calculate backward nine to 11 hours.”

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Dr. Arveity Setty, a pediatric sleep specialist, tells Sanford Health the best thing you can do once the kids are back in school to support a good night’s rest is to stay consistent with bedtime, and take all devices away an hour before they turn in — don’t allow any devices in their bedrooms.

I did this with all of my kids (until they were about fourteen) even though they said I was the “only parent in the world” that did. It helped tremendously with their sleep. Now that they are older, they are allowed to have them, yet they recognize when they are tired and usually are done with them by 10pm. This wasn’t something they were able to do when they were younger (I know because we tried it many times).

Making sure the kids get plenty of fresh air and exercise during the day, and ensuring their room is cool makes for a better sleeping atmosphere, are also helpful, advises Dr. Setty.

If you have other concerns that go beyond sleep — say, your child is anxious about returning to school — suggests reaching out to your child’s teacher (or teachers) before the year begins. “Schools are open to address any concerns a parent or child might have, including the specific needs of a child, over the summer. The best time to get help might be one to two weeks before school opens.”

Talking with the teachers can help you and your child feel more prepared, and will go a long way in putting your child’s mind (and your mind) at ease before the year even starts.

Both my son and daughter are attending a new school. It’s my son’s first year of high school, and while my daughter was in high school when COVID hit, the school she went to has since been torn down and a new one is in its place.

They are both anxious about their new surroundings and finding their way around. That may be the case for your child too. suggests going to the school for an early visit (even if it’s the same school) to get acclimated and see where their classroom will be.

And making sure your child eats something before their school day can be a challenge for sure, but studies have shown they do better throughout the day if they get some nutrients in.

Try weaving this in a few weeks before school starts to try and make it a habit by the first day.

My kiddos always feel better when they eat something but it’s not appetizing for them to eat before school so they go for smoothies or a breakfast bar. Make sure they take something with them if they just can’t seem to eat before school, or that they are aware of the breakfast options their school provides and they know what to do to get themselves something to eat.

While this can all seem overwhelming, and preparing for the school year ahead may be the last thing you want to do, it will be worth the effort now when things start getting busy in your house. Take it from me — I’ve gone rogue for too many summers and have always paid the price come fall.

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