Tips for transitioning back to the classroom
Published: July 26, 2021
By: Kimberly Blaker
The start of a new school year is often anticipated with a mix of emotions for kids and parents alike, ranging from exhilaration to anxiety.
This year, feelings might be heightened as some students step foot into the physical classroom for the first time in a long time. It may also take a little extra effort to get kids into the groove as former routines over the past year may have fallen by the wayside. But even if pajamas have become the daily uniform of choice in your household, there are some simple ways to get back on track again. Here are tips to help keep your child happy and healthy this school year, as they continue to learn and grow.
Kids need their Zs.
Sufficient sleep is essential to proper brain function. When kids are deprived of sleep, it can interfere with their memory, attention and ability to learn. Insufficient sleep can also adversely affect health. It contributes to Type 2 diabetes in children and teens.
Mental health is also affected by sleep. Kids who don’t get enough quality sleep are at risk for mood swings, anxiety, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior.
Unfortunately, because teens’ circadian rhythm keeps them alert later at night, early school start times don’t help. But getting plenty of sleep is crucial. Kids ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night, and teens require 8 to 10.
To help your kids fall asleep better, set a curfew and regular bedtime for school nights accordingly. If they want to stay up later on weekends, try not to let their weekend sleep patterns veer too far from their weeknight routine. Also:
- Remove media from bedrooms at night.
- Set a curfew of 2-3 hours before bed for caffeine.
- Keep bedroom temperatures 3 degrees cooler at night than during the day.
- Make sure your kids have plenty of blankets.
- Have your child take a hot bath before bed.
Balance is essential.
During the school year, kids have a lot on their plate. In addition to school, they have family, friends, homework, chores, extracurricular activities, and perhaps a part-time job.
But balance is essential to your child’s wellbeing. The reason such imbalance sometimes develops is that parents see other families involved in so many extracurricular activities. As a result, parents think they’re not doing their job if their kids aren’t always on the go. Because kids want to make their parents happy and proud of them, kids often don’t speak up when they feel overwhelmed.
Structured activities do provide valuable benefits to kids. Still, they need free time to play and socialize as well. When kids lack balance in their lives, it can cause them stress and interfere with their ability to sleep and optimal functioning. It can also affect their mental wellness.
County and state parks have reopened, offering open spaces for families to walk, hike, bike or have a picnic, and the natural areas offer serene settings to kick back and unwind. For those looking for structured activities, next month’s issue of South Florida Family Life features a special after-school enrichment section spotlighting many extracurricular programs. There, you might find recreational or academic options that are the perfect fit for your family’s schedule.
Click here to view upcoming Back-to-School Celebrations for kids, teachers and the community.
Pay attention to emotional health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adolescents has a mental health condition. A significant percentage of younger kids also experience mental disorders. Conditions range from anxiety and depression to attention deficit disorder, and in the later teens, bipolar and schizophrenia.
School success is strongly tied to kids’ emotional wellness. Unfortunately, when kids exhibit behavioral changes, parents often assume it’s just a childhood or adolescent phase as opposed to a mental health problem.
Child and family therapist Donna M. Carollo says when a child or teen “exhibits symptoms of depression for over a month, it’s time to seek professional help.” Carollo points out a few signs to watch for that could indicate depression or another mental illness. These include “a child wanting to socially isolate, exhibiting excessive fatigue, a change in appetite, a lack of desire to do any of the fun things they used to, or a sudden drop in academic performance.”
Drug and alcohol misuse or abuse may also be symptoms of a mental health condition. If you suspect your teen is misusing or abusing substances, intervention is crucial. You can make an appointment with a mental health care professional or contact an addiction treatment center for help.
You can also contact local agencies such as the Children’s Services Council in Broward and Palm Beach, or the Children’s Trust in Miami-Dade, for a list of suggested resources.
Limit cell phone use.
According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, more than half of kids between 13 and 17 worry they spend too much time on their cell phones. Just over half also say they’ve taken steps to reduce their use of it. Fifty-seven percent have made efforts to limit their time on social media and 58% to limit video games.
Cell phone addiction has become a growing problem among adolescents. According to Carollo, “Something is considered an addiction when the chosen behavior causes an individual to suffer in many other valued areas of their life.” She cautions, however, that “a parent’s values and a child’s values don’t always sync.” Still, says Carollo, “if the cell phone is interfering with face-to-face family and friend time, school work, sleep or exercise,” that’s when it’s time for parents to enforce some guidelines.
To gain kids’ cooperation, ask them to help you create the rules. Also, allow your adolescent an hour or two of daily phone time because socialization is an integral part of teen development.
At night, however, require all phones are on their chargers outside of bedrooms. Other helpful rules include no phones during mealtime and that chores and homework must be completed before kids can have their phones. Also, set consequences for breaking cell phone rules. Loss of their cell phone for a specified period is an appropriate measure.
Get academic help.
If your child has struggled academically in the past or grades begin to suffer, they may need help. Any of the above issues, among other things, can lead to academic problems.
Some kids struggle with retaining information, understanding concepts, or have a different learning style. Also, learning disabilities can affect kids of all intelligence levels and cause academic challenges.
If your child is struggling in one or more subjects, ask your child’s teachers about their observations. Then, talk to the school principal. Public schools are required to provide an assessment upon request. If your child attends a private school that doesn’t offer assessments, you can request it through your public school district.
Whatever the reason for your child’s school difficulties, there are ways to help. First, establish a regular homework time. Also, set up a quiet, distraction-free area as a homework station and furnish it with a desk or comfortable chair. Kids’ rooms provide too many distractions. Plus, the ability to close their door can hide that they’re not on task.
Broward County Public Schools launched BRIA (Broward Remote Instructional Assistant) last school year, with virtual after-school assistance provided by support staff, teacher volunteers and administrators. The Miami-Dade Public Library System (http://www.mdpls.org) offers free homework help, a tutoring program and other resources to help students succeed. The Broward County Library System (http://www.broward.org/library) also offers free homework assistance, SAT/ACT test prep and more.
If you are considering a tutor, some schools offer free one-on-one or afterschool group tutoring. Another option is to ask a trusted family member, neighbor, or friend who might be interested in helping. You can find online video tutorials at http://www.KhanAcademy.org as well.
Another option is to hire a tutor. Look for local tutoring companies, or visit http://www.TakeLessons.com or http://www.Care.com to find local tutors.