Emmanuel J. Eusebio, MD

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Avoid the September Shock: Prepare Now for Back-to-School

As published in City Living Seattle

Where has summer gone? Didn’t the final school bell ring just last week? Before you know it, September will be upon us and school will be in full swing. Transitioning back to school is as much of a process for parents as it is for kids. Going from the lazy, carefree days of summer to having to rise-and-shine and adhere to a schedule all day can be a big transition for everyone in the family.

Every year, the back-to-school task list sneaks up and bombards families with endless paperwork, registration, insurance forms and doctors’ appointments. Add to that back-to-school shopping, extracurricular activities and new bedtimes, teachers, classrooms and homework assignments, it can all become overwhelming.

But by planning ahead now, it can help make all the difference. Here are a few ideas you can start doing now for a smoother transition.

New or first-time student?

Take advantage of any scheduled events to meet teachers, classmates and families before the first day of school. Many schools offer opportunities for new students to familiarize themselves with their new school environment and meet their teachers before the first day — this can help to ease nerves.

If they aren’t offered, just ask. Most teachers like meeting their students and their families before the year gets too busy.

Get a family calendar

Posting a family event calendar with everyone’s daily activities in a common area of the house helps keep everyone on track and well-informed. This calendar will be especially helpful if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations.

Agree on routines, expectations

Establish a specific homework time that works well with everyone’s schedules. Avoid the very end of the day, when your child’s energy will wane. Also, be sure to discuss your family’s policy about daily time limits for electronics, as well as their use during study time. Minimizing distractions and interruptions while studying maximizes productivity, so minimal cell phone and TV use is ideal.

Keep school items in one spot

Designate a spot for your child to place their school belongings and important notices and information sent home for parents to see.

Schedule checkups early

Avoid the last-minute rush and take your kids for their annual well-child physical exam during the summer, instead of the start of the school year. When you schedule the appointment, let them know you need immunization and other records for school purposes. If at all possible, fill out as much of the form in advance so that it will allow for faster completion once you are at the doctor’s office.

Reset the body clock

Odds are, your kids have been staying up late into the evening and sleeping in late into the next day all summer long. To ease the transition back to school, two weeks before the first day, start their bedtime routine 10 minutes earlier each night, and wake them up 10 minutes earlier each morning every day. By the time school starts they’ll be back on track, and hopefully, mornings will be a bit easier.

Plan for healthy meals

Summer is a great time to start planning healthy school lunches, snacks and family dinners. Take time to talk to your children about healthy food choices and get their feedback on items they enjoy. Once school begins, your child will be more empowered to choose healthy options.

To ensure nutrition and energy throughout the day, meals and snacks should include a lean protein, grain and a fruit or vegetable.

With just a little advance planning, parents can help their families avoid back-to-school shock and set themselves and their children up for a great academic year.

Dr. Manny Eusebio is a pediatrician at PacMed Northgate. To learn more or to make an appointment, visit his web page.