The Haas family is gearing up for the first day of school.
“Between school supplies, new backpacks, making sure their uniforms fit, it’s just a list a mile long,” says Heidi Haas.
Heidi and her husband, Michael, have two daughters, Rachel, 12 and Rebecca, 10. They say they’re mostly ready for school.
“I packed my backpack already, but I’m not really good at waking up early,” says Rebecca.
Sleep is something parents should focus on weeks before the first bell, according to Dr. Salguni Acharya of Tan and Garcia Pediatrics. “It’s important to start thinking about a routine so we can start getting ahead of it,” she says. “The best way to do that is to start early and to start working on consistency for the kids.”
Dr. Acharya says to adjust your summer schedule to mimic the school year one to two weeks before school. That means waking the kids up earlier and sending them to bed while it’s still light out.
“Get them busy, they shouldn’t be in lazy summer mode the entire day,” says Dr. Acharya.
For older kids, the doctor says to explain why sleep is important and how it impacts their health, “Kids who don’t get enough sleep, who are tired throughout the school year, it can affect their learning, their focus and it can affect them with their retention,” she explained.
So how much sleep should kids get?
Dr. Acharya says children up to age 12 should get nine to 11 hours of sleep each night. While kids ages 12-18 should get eight to nine hours of sleep.
But quantity isn’t as important as quality.
If your child snores, is restless, tired in the morning or difficult to wake up, that could mean their sleep quality is poor and Dr. Acharya suggests consulting your pediatrician.
To figure out your child’s bedtime, figure out what time they have to get up for school and then count backward.
That seems simple enough, but Heidi says getting the kids to bed is not.
“Bedtime is sometimes a challenge because we have a fantastic neighborhood of lots of kids out and about so it’s hard to lure, we all feel that way, it’s kinda hard to get them inside and settled down for the night,” says Heidi Haas.
Dr. Acharya suggests installing blackout shades in your child’s bedroom to limit the light. She also says white noise apps help calm children down before bed. And finally, help your kids get ready for bed by giving them 30 minutes of quiet time before bedtime, things like reading or listening to music, should do the trick.
Too much electronic activity can also keep your kids up at night. Dr. Acharya suggests powering down electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime.
While technology keeps kids up, it can also help limit your child’s screen time.
Michael Haas says their family uses apps and parental controls that allow them to set the amount of time the girls have on the devices. It also kicks them off within a few hours of bedtime.
As kids get prepared to back to school, they get excited. At times, that excitement can turn into anxiety, says Dr. Acharya.
“Obviously the biggest worry that we all have is the unknown. And so when you’ve got a new school year, a new teacher, are my friends going to be in my class? These are all things that they can get worried about,” she said.
If your child gets stressed or anxious, Dr. Acharya says first, talk about their worries and if it persists, she suggests light journaling.
In the journal, she says to have your child write down three to five things they’re excited about and focus on those positives. They can also write down their worries but if they do, make sure they come up with solutions.
“If they can’t come up with it on their own, they can ask mom or dad, friends, siblings for help or they can figure out okay… People have done this before, they’ve had this worry before. What can we do to make it better?” she explained.
If your child doesn’t take to journaling, Dr. Acharya suggests stretching or breathing exercises. “Not everything in life needs a medicine for it so stretching, deep breathing are things we can do to center our body and center our brains.”