AK Child & Family's Director of Community Programs, Katy Smith, was recently interviewed on KTUU's Moms Everyday about how parents can help their children transition into the new school year. verbal responses to the questions had to be condensed for the interview, but her full-length, written answers are detailed below. The Moms Everyday interview video can be viewed on our home page--Enjoy and happy Back-To-School!
1. What can parents do now with their children to prepare for the coming school year?
After a fun and free summer break in Alaska where the sun has been shining and we’ve all been playing outside, sometimes into the later hours of the night the most important step in preparing for the new school year, both for children as well as their parents, is to start getting back on a bedtime schedule that lets children get enough sleep each night in order to awake on a schedule that prepares them for school day mornings. While we as parents may be able to cut our sleep short and function in the next work day (possibly regretting not having a full night sleep), it is more difficult for children to recover. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children age 3-5 need 10-13 hours of sleep each night, age 6-12 need 9-12 hours, and teenagers age 13-18 need 8-10 hours of sleep. Studies have shown that a restful and full night sleep improves an individual’s ability to manage their responses to their environment (frustration tolerance and adaptability to new environments) as well as improves an individual’s ability for decision-making and absorption of information. It is the single-most important aspect to each of our overall ability to function well each day. While we all have fun with the longer summer days here in Alaska, it can take a toll on our health if we don’t bring ourselves and our children back on track during the school year.
2. What can parents do once the school year starts, to help in that transition?
Each of our children is different. Being aware of their individual needs in transitioning into new routines, spending time with new people and new environments, and talking with them about those transitions can help ease barriers to adapting. Maintaining a consistent routine at home (meals, play time, bed time) helps provide predictability to your child’s day so they can be more responsive to the changes occurring at school. As the new school year starts, talk with your child about their teacher, new classmates, what they did during their day. Helping children develop the language to articulate their experiences will help them process those experiences and create opportunity for you to not only be aware, but actively problem-solve with them as well as with their teacher.
3. How can parents and their children set the stage to have a successful school year?
Developing a cohesive team between yourself, your child’s teacher, and your child by establishing a line of communication with the teacher and keeping them informed as well they you, will increase any child’s success in a school year. Teachers will always appreciate understanding the needs of the children in their classrooms. Keeping them informed on your child, and they you, will help you as a team better support your child’s needs whether they be academic, social, emotional, physical. And, most importantly, take the time to have fun. Learning is a part of the true nature of being a child, it can be active and exciting and doesn’t have to stop at the classroom door. Taking time to have fun in learning can instill in a child a positive relationship with the process, one in which they can look forward to, be encouraged by, and ultimately strive to excel at.