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Advice: How parents can help kids transition back into a new school year

For children and parents schools have a fair amount of trepidation and stress. Here is some advice.

Unvaccinated US school teacher spread Covid to 26 people
Students and parents arrive masked for the first day of the school year at an elementary school in Los Angeles - Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI
Students and parents arrive masked for the first day of the school year at an elementary school in Los Angeles - Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI

Many children will be returning to in-person learning for the remainder of the year. In schools in many countries, school children will also still be wearing masks and practising social distancing as they participate in classroom exercises. These measures, plus others, will make it difficult for them to adjust to this “new normal”.

Dr. Teralyn Sell, psychotherapist and brain health expert, provides some tips to Digital Journal concerning how parents can help their children transition back into “school-mode” while keeping brain, physical and mental health in mind.

Dr. Sell explains the context: “Heading back to school is an exciting and often stressful time for both parents and children. School provides an environment that is conducive to learning social skills, problem solving, learning new and exciting things as well as for some a fair amount of trepidation and stress.”

Dr. Teralyn Sell provides the following tips to help parents to keep the stress at bay:

Tip #1: Keep a consistent sleep wake schedule even on the weekends

Well before the start of the school year, you should be transitioning away from staying up late and sleeping in. A child and teen’s body relies on adequate sleep to maintain alertness and the ability to retain new information. Many times parents allow their children to change their sleep habits on the weekend which negatively impacts their sleep for the following week. Stay consistent with their schedule and with your own.

Tip #2: No sweets before bedtime

Saving sweets and carbs for a bedtime snack sets your child up for poor sleep quality. This is due to the role of sugar and reactive hypoglycemia. The rise and fall of blood sugar will kick up adrenaline and wake your child up in the middle of the night or way too early. It might even cause them to not be able to fall asleep in the first place. Instead opt for a high protein snack before bedtime to keep your child sound asleep all night.

Tip #3: Pay attention to breakfast and lunchtime

A brain that is well fueled will function better, longer. A well fueled brain will also help with behavior. Make sure that breakfast is high quality, protein filled. Sugary and carb loaded breakfasts will ultimately cause your child to run out of ‘gas’ and this is when they become sluggish and are more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors. Do the same for lunch. Pack lunch with your child and offer them some options that you are both in agreement with. If your child takes a hot lunch, go over the menu and discuss some really good options they might have together. Make nutrition part of your daily conversation.

Tip #4: Take the heat off of grades

Parents, did you know that your child’s grades in elementary, middle and even high school do not define the potential of the person they will become. Too often I hear parents pushing their kids to get A’s and take advanced placement courses when they really aren’t necessary. Don’t pay your kids for grades, instead pay attention to your kids. Have evening talks about the best parts of the day, the challenges they are having and what they are looking forward to instead of only worrying about grades.

Tip #5: Don’t over commit

Kids need breaks too. If you have them signed up for every single after school activity, you are likely just introducing stress on the entire family. Instead pick one or two things to participate in for the entire year. That will reduce your kids stress load as well, and reduce your own.

Tip #6: Don’t be a hypocrite

Yes, you are the adult, but you are also setting the example for your kids. If you expect them to put their electronics down, eat differently before bed and have a set bedtime and wake time, you do the same. Instead of arguing about why you can do it differently, do it with them. Ultimately it will help your sleep too.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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