YMCA of OC offers up five key tips for a successful back-to-school this fall.
The long days of summer are drawing to a close, and soon the beach days, summer camps and family road trips will seem like a distant memory. While many families continue to navigate the pandemic and the “new normal” that it brings with it, daily routines may look a little different. When gearing up for the school year, it is vital for both parents (and students!) to acknowledge that everyone has been impacted a little differently by the pandemic, so our approach to “back to school” must be unique, too.
The key for parents in this season is to pay attention to your child, see what they have gained over the last year — resilience, courage, determination, flexibility — and praise them for that. Looking for the “good” will encourage you and your child. Then, identify one or two areas to focus on in order to help them be even more successful in the fall.
In an effort to keep kids and families feeling strong and ready to face any challenges this year, non-profit YMCA of Orange County offers five tips to help transition kids back into school:
- Ease in. After a year of staying home, slowing down and cutting back on activities, many people feel anxious to get back out there and make up for lost time. While the temptation to jump back in is there, understanding the rhythm of your family is vital to easing back into any routine. Take time to notice what your children are actually interested in before signing them up for anything and everything. While studies show exercise improves brain power for better concentration, keep in mind the busyness of your days as school starts. Kids need to get moving and exercise to lift their mood and reduce stress; easing into new activities will help alleviate any burnout that works against this new transition.
- Eat the rainbow! Breakfast is the fuel that gets you going, so choosing the right foods for that first meal can provide you and your child an extra boost for the entire school day. Some examples of a healthy breakfast include oatmeal with fruit, eggs (try a breakfast burrito or egg sandwich), Greek yogurt and fresh berries, fruit smoothie, whole grain toast, bagel or muffin, or cereal. Healthy snacks can also boost energy levels and stimulate the brain to stay focused in class. Packing snacks like carrots and ranch dressing, celery and peanut butter, bananas and nut butter, popcorn, fruit, edamame, veggies and hummus or watermelon are some favorites. It’s good to include one fresh fruit, one fresh vegetable, one protein and one carbohydrate to round out a healthy lunch. You can step up lunch by making it fun, offering foods shaped by cookie-cutters or by cutting fruits and veggies into bite-sized morsels.
- Don’t skip sleep. The CDC recommends that 3-5-year-olds receive 10-13 hours of sleep (including naps) and 6-12-year-olds receive 9-12 hours of sleep per day. Studies continue to show the importance sleep has on children’s health, developing brain and even ties to academic success. Set a sleep and bedtime routine that works for your family and encourages your child to relax at the end of the day while getting into sleep mode. Changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, dimming the lights, skipping the screens, and reading can be incorporated into the routine to make the transition to school a lot easier.
- Talk. Then talk some more. We encourage parents to talk to their children to find out what feels comfortable for them as they return to school this year. Talking and communicating consistently helps children feel safe and empowered to spread their wings at a pace that feels natural. As districts across the state are working diligently to provide teachers resources needed to help students transition, setting up a time to talk to teachers and school counselors is more important than ever so they have a full understanding of your child’s experience — both at home and at school.
- Allow time to adapt. Kids need time to adapt. Be patient. A new routine can take weeks — sometimes months — to become natural again. But it will happen, and nothing is “wrong” with your child in this unique season. Children always need time to adapt during the first couple of weeks of school, and that will be especially true this upcoming year. Parents, teachers and children will need to flex that muscle of patience as we enter a “new normal” with new ways of presenting academic content to students. Within the first month, the majority of children will feel comfortable with the routine, while others will need reinforcement from parents and teachers — and that is OK. Every student is different (which is something to celebrate!), and we must all be willing to work together to help this generation be successful — in and out of the classroom. But we can navigate it: together.
Kaycee Martin is director of operations for Child & Youth Development at YMCA of Orange County. www.ymcaoc.org