Submitted by White Plains Hospital Physicians Associates:
Helping kids transition from summer to a new school year requires more than just rousing them out of bed the first day. And the effort parents put in now can help build routines that will help their kids succeed all year long.
Dr. Samantha Lowe, a pediatrician at White Plains Hospital Medical and Wellness in Armonk, NY, offers invaluable advice about the four “S’s” – sleep, study, schedule, and safeguards—to help ease the shift from summer days to school days, and says that for all, the most important thing in a parents’ arsenal is “knowing your own child.”
The Four “S’s” for successfully transitioning from summer to back to school, are:
As Dr. Lowe notes, sleep is crucial for kids at every age, “Creating and sticking to sleep routines is very important to ensure that children have the rest they need for both the cognitive and physical demands of their days.” Scheduling and consistency are paramount, and Dr. Lowe advises against “catch up” sleep strategies—staying up late during the week (getting less than 10 hours of sleep for kids 7-12 years-old and less than 9 hours for teenagers) and sleeping in on the weekend instead. This can lead to over exhaustion and irritability, and can cause a decrease in concentration and productivity. Dr. Lowe offers that the best way to create a realistic sleep routine is to know your child: “Consult with your child and map out his/her day, after school activities, homework time, and downtime and determine what’s reasonable. It’s very possible that something may have to give to accommodate everything and to ensure your child is getting the rest they need.”
For kids that have difficulty falling asleep, Dr. Lowe recommends avoiding sugary or caffeinated foods and drinks in the evening, shutting electronics off 30 minutes prior to bed, removing bedroom clocks, and using blackout shades or a white noise machine. For children who have difficulty waking but are getting adequate rest each night, she suggests letting natural light into their room in the morning to help regulate their circadian rhythms to improve alertness.
Every child learns differently, notes Dr. Lowe. So, the best way to help your child—whether at the start of school or throughout—is to identify what works best for them. What are his/her strengths? What are his/her weaknesses? What do they get excited about? When do they hit the wall? Once parents key into their child’s study and learning style, they can help create conditions where their child will thrive. Generally, Dr. Lowe advises that children should study in a comfortable, well-lit space that is free from distractions. She also points out that parents and children should agree on when a child will study based on when they feel most productive. Some children prefer to get their homework done right away, others want and need a break after school to recharge. Parents should also encourage children to take breaks if they are feeling overwhelmed, and should let them know there is nothing wrong with asking for help when needed, which can reduce stress levels.
Long gone are the days when kids came home to hours of unscheduled time after school. Now, parents and caregivers need scheduling apps and spreadsheets to manage daily schedules. Some children thrive with lots of structure and activities; others need a break from constant stimulation. When children are experiencing increased levels of stress, they can seem tired, irritable, worried, sad, withdrawn, nervous, and disengaged. Dr. Lowe also notes that stress can affect school performance and sleep, and that parents should continually assess their children’s mood, behavior, and performance to determine if activities should be scaled back. Children today have amazing opportunities and activities at their disposal, but sometimes it’s equally important to build in unscheduled down time.
Kids of all ages feel peer pressure. While peers can help motivate children to succeed, peer pressure can also foster toxic competition, or worse, can push your child towards negative and dangerous behavior. Dr. Lowe says that it is very important for parents to know their children’s friends, and to encourage kids to engage a variety of friends across various “groups.” Equally important is monitoring children’s internet activity—from knowing their passwords, to insisiting on “private” social media profiles, to scanning followers, comments, and posted photos. Dr. Lowe notes that parents should be on the lookout for warning signs that bullying or peer pressure may be affecting your child. These include: behavioral changes, weight loss or weight gain, withdrawal, and changes in appearance (clothes, hair, etc.). All can be signs that something serious might be going on and should be addressed.
A child’s pediatrician can be a valuable ally in helping parents navigate and address health and well-being issues. Dr. Lowe notes that as children grow, trips to the pediatrician are thought to be less important, when in fact they are just as important throughout adolescence. Health recommendations and required vaccinations are continually updated, so it’s important that teens and tweens are receiving regular preventative exams to ensure that they are up to date. A trusted pediatrician can also help parents recognize and record physical changes from year to year, and can make referrals to other health professionals if needed.
About White Plains Hospital: White Plains Hospital (WPH) is a proud member of the Montefiore Health System, serving as its tertiary hub of advanced care in the Hudson Valley.
WPH is a 292-bed not-for-profit health care organization with the primary mission of providing exceptional acute and preventive medical care to all people who live in, work in or visit Westchester County and its surrounding areas. Centers of Excellence include the Center for Cancer Care, The William & Sylvia Silberstein Neonatal & Maternity Center and The Ruth and Jerome A. Siegel Stroke Center. The Hospital’s Flanzer Emergency Department is the busiest in Westchester County, seeing nearly 57,000 visits a year. White Plains Hospital performs lifesaving emergency and elective angioplasty in its Joan and Alan Herfort, M.D. Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and Marie Promuto Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. White Plains Hospital also has outpatient medical facilities in Armonk and New Rochelle. The Hospital is fully accredited by the Joint Commission and earned its recognition as a Top Performer for Key Quality Measures® in 2015 and 2013. The Hospital is also an eleven-time winner of the Consumer Choice Award, an honor given to the nation’s top hospitals by the National Research Corporation, and received Magnet® designation in 2012 from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). In 2014 and 2016, White Plains Hospital received the Outstanding Patient Experience Award from Healthgrades®, given to only 10% of hospitals nationwide. For additional information, visit http://www.wphospital.org.