Dr. Mom: Now’s the time for rebuilding a back-to-school routine

08/07/2013 5:56 PM

08/07/2013 5:57 PM

Back to school always seems to sneak up on us. We’re well into later bedtimes, letting the kids sleep in and indulging in impromptu weekend getaways . And yet, it’s August, and suddenly we’re back-to-school shopping and anticipating more than a bit of resistance when it comes to getting bedtimes back on track.

So as you head into this new school year, here are three important ways to keep your kids healthy all year long.

Sleep

There’s no time like now to start reining in the bedtime routine and making sure your kids are getting the sleep they need. School-age kids need 10 to 11 hours per night and teens should aim for at least nine hours per night.

This means getting them on board with a reasonable bedtime. Help them by creating a soothing, brief and predictable routine. Talk to them about the importance of sleep. For school, for play and for just feeling good, sleep is the cornerstone of their health.

Keep electronics, including televisions, out of the kids’ bedrooms. Help resistant sleepers by creating a reward chart, a worry jar or some extra TLC before the lights go out. Be accommodating to an extent, but let them know you mean business when it comes to bedtime.

Backpacks

Shopping for new backpacks often signals a fresh start for kids. It often ramps up the excitement factor, particularly for the younger set. Just be sure to teach your kids some backpack safety rules.

Make sure the weight of your child’s backpack and its contents is no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. Teach them tocarry it with both straps on to evenly distribute the weight and to tighten the straps so the pack sits firmly on their back. Look for thick, padded straps and encourage them not to overload.

Easy on the schedule

Wow, kids are busy these days. This can be good and bad. School, homework and after-school activities monopolize so much of their waking hours, it’s a miracle they even get to bed at a decent time. So while these extras can be really good for kids, be sure to schedule some down time.

Younger kids in particular need free-play time. Resist the temptation to have all their days planned out with scheduled activities. An afternoon at the park or inviting a friend over to just play may be exactly what they need to decompress without an outside agenda. For older kids, consider having at least one day during the week that is free of extracurricular activities.

So I guess there’s no avoiding it: The back-to-school crunch is on. Channel your inner bedtime drill sergeant, prevent achy little backs and remember to schedule some play time for you and your kids.

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