The back-to-school guide for parents

The time has come to head back to school. And with so many new concerns and variables that parents can’t control, it’s important to remember that there’s so much that parents can do for the well-being of their children – starting with setting them up for learning and developmental success.

Read on as we offer some perspective about how to prepare your kids to be at their best this school year. Consider it your guide to back-to-school success!

Back-to-school basics: Get back into a sleep routine

This one might be the most important of all of our tips. And it’s key to get it started early.

Your kids — and so many others — likely slept later this summer and went to sleep later each night. That’s totally fine! It’s normal for a sleep routine to change a bit when school isn’t a factor.

But when the back-to-school season hits, it’s time to flip the switch. Starting at least a week prior to the first day of school if you can, work to reset your kids’ routines. But it’s never too late for a fresh start: determine exactly how much sleep they need, then set a bedtime accordingly that will allow them to wake restored and ready to go in the morning. Now, the hard part — in increments, work on getting your kids to that bedtime and waketime. Put them to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and have them begin waking up earlier, too.

Back-to-school basics: Start planning out healthy meals

We all perform at our best when we’re fueled with healthy foods, particularly a healthy, balanced breakfast.

But it can be all-too-easy during the chaos of the school year to slip into a routine where you’re sending the kids off with packaged, processed foods for lunch and even for breakfast. It’s just easier!

But that doesn’t have to be the case. A little advanced preparation now — and some more advanced prep each weekend during the school year — can help you get your family the fuel they need to get through every day. Plus, healthy meals boost the immune system and prevent seasonal illness.

Flip through healthy recipes and find a good rotation of ideas for both breakfast and lunch. These don’t have to be complicated. Having items on hand like apples and peanut butter can get a quick and easy meal in your child first thing in the morning that will keep him or her fueled until lunch.

Back-to-school basics: Choose the right backpack

When it comes to choosing a backpack, you might be thinking only of the aesthetics. Your child may want the newest Disney star or princess on his or her backpack, and that’s totally OK.

But you also need to think about function, and you need to choose the healthiest option for your child.

Wait — what do we mean by healthy when it comes to a backpack? You want to look for some essentials to help keep your child’s back from literally being weighed down.

First, choose a backpack that has two straps so that weight is evenly distributed. Then, once the school year begins, you want to ensure that the backpack never weighs more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight at most.

Carrying more than that on the back, or carrying it unevenly distributed, can cause back pain in your child.

Back-to-school basics: Set up a homework space

Think about this — where do you work best? The odds are, you work best in a space that’s organized and set aside for work.

So, when your child is doing homework, he or she needs something similar.

Carve out a space in your home that’s set up with all the essentials, including a comfortable chair and all basic school supplies. That space should be free of distractions, including screens in most cases. The exception is when your child needs a computer to perform an assignment.

Having this designated space will help your child be more productive and effective — and ideally, accomplish homework in a quick fashion. Plus, if they have a hybrid schedule, it will provide structure for days when they have virtual school from home.

Back-to-school basics: Build in time for activity

During the summer, your little one was probably plenty active. Hours spent outdoors playing or swimming in a local pool add up to a good bit of physical activity.

But when kids are back in school, that activity can often fall by the wayside, particularly if your child is not involved in a sport or if there are restrictions that prevent them from participating in regular activities.

So, just as it’s important to set your child up for success when it comes to homework and sleep, make sure you’re carving out time every day for your child to do something physically active.

One of the best ways to promote activity in your kids? Make it a family routine. Head out for a walk after dinner each day, or have a dance party in the kitchen while you cook.

It truly doesn’t matter what types of activity you choose — just ensure your child is getting the recommend 60 minutes of physical activity in most days of the week.

A back-to-school checkup is an important part of heading back to school. Has your child seen the doctor recently? Find a doctor here.