Even if your child can’t wait to start school, transitioning from lazy summer days to strict school schedules can be tough. You can help your family prepare for the school year by easing into new routines and promoting healthy habits at home.

Eating

Breakfast: Don’t let your kids skip breakfast in the morning rush. A nutritious morning meal helps kids concentrate better in class and maintain a healthy weight. Stock your kitchen with plenty of healthy breakfast foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, yogurt, and fresh fruit, or make sure your children eat a balanced breakfast at school.

Lunch: Look over the school menu with your child, especially if he’s a picky eater. (Many schools post menus on their websites.) If he turns up his nose at the special of the day, plan to pack a healthy lunch he’ll enjoy.

After school: Keep nutritious foods on hand so your child can prepare her own snacks. She may be more likely to eat celery with peanut butter or carrot sticks with low-fat dip. Microwave popcorn, nuts, and low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers are also good options.

Sleeping

Earlier wake-up times can be tough on kids and parents alike. Ease your family’s transition to a “school night” sleep schedule by rolling back bedtimes the week before classes start. Kids ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, while older children need at least 9 hours of sleep.

Your kids may not be getting enough sleep if they:

  • are irritable or restless or have a short attention span.
  • have much less energy than they normally do.
  • are more impatient, anxious, or defensive than usual.

You can help your children get sufficient sleep by establishing and maintaining a nighttime routine. The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Limiting caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoiding serving big dinners close to bedtime.
  • Setting a regular bedtime and enforcing it.
  • Creating a calming nighttime routine. Video games and TV shows are too stimulating before bed. Instead, share a favorite story with your child or encourage her to read on her own.

Learning

Much of a child’s success in school is tied to the support he gets at home. You can help your kids get the most out of school by:

  • Maintaining open lines of communication with teachers and understanding their expectations.
  • Creating a homework station and keeping adequate school supplies on hand.
  • Designating times for doing homework, playing outside, and watching TV or playing video games.
  • Being available to help with homework.
  • Observing your children for signs of frustration or confusion.

You’ll most likely get the teacher’s email address or phone number at the school open house. Don’t be afraid to use it, and don’t wait until the parent-teacher conference to address issues of concern. Taking steps early can make a big difference.

This article was written by School Family staff, and may include portions of articles previously published on SchoolFamily.com.