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#happylife: Local experts share tips for settling back into school routine

SPOKANE, Wash. - It's just about that time of year again. Back to school! 

In the summer months, we tend to throw out routine where kids are involved, but during the school year, schedules can help lead to success in the classroom and in life.

Local experts say the key to bringing back or introducing a routine to a child is to do so gradually. Transitions can be tricky for kids to deal with but easing in to them lessens stress and anxiety.

One of the biggest back to school routines families struggle to return to is the sleep routine. Devon Hansen, an assistant research professor at Washington State University's Sleep and Performance Center said the key is to focus on three things.

1. Don't shift your child's sleep schedule back in a night!

Try and start a week or two before schools begins. Each night, dial back bedtime by 15 minutes. For instance, if your child has been going to bed at 10 p.m. during the summer, make bedtime 9:45 p.m. tomorrow night. The same idea works for the morning! Remember, kids need at least 9 hours of sleep a night.

2. Bring back the bedtime routine!

"Thirty to sixty minutes before kids are getting ready to go to bed, kind of wind down, turn the lights down, turn off technology, pajamas, read a book, teeth brushed, read a book," Hansen said. 

3. Get rid of technology temptation in the bedroom!

The assistant research professor said your child's bedroom should be for sleeping only. Screens lighting up, the picture from the TV – that can all throw off a child's sleep.

If your child is struggling with getting back to their school year sleep routine, make sure that you are following it seven nights a week – not just when school is the next morning. 

Pediatrician Katheryn Hudon, D.O. with Providence Grand Pediatrics, echoed Hansen's advice on sleep routines. She added, though, that when it comes to morning wake up, include breakfast in the routine. In the summer, the most important meal of the day is often an afterthought. During school, it serves as the fuel kids need to be ready to learn!

Carving out some quieter time in the afternoon can help kids back in to the habit of doing homework! Reading a book, practicing equations from ready-for-school workbooks or even using educational apps can take the place of future assignments now! Don't overdo it, though. Don't put  your anxieties about your child's readiness for the new school year on them, said Dr. Hudon. It can add unnecessary pressure  to an already stressful time.

Instead, Dr. Hudon shared, adopt a positive attitude about things to come. Ask your child questions like, "what do you think you'll learn this year?" or "are you excited to make new friends? 

Include them in back to school shopping and if they are feeling anxious, reach out to their school to set up a tour or a meeting with the teacher. A play date with a friend from last year, or someone who will be in their class this year could be beneficial too.

Back to school can be scary for children and sometimes they may come to you with a concern that is unreasonable, like their teacher is a robot or that they'll glue themselves to the chair during an art project! To them it's really real and it's important to acknowledge it and comfort them. For a teen, they might have seen something on the news about violence in a school across the country. 

Dr. Hudon recommended responding like this: "How do you prepare a kid if they are anxious, seeing the news of school shootings? When you are talking about teenagers, you have to validate that concern. You can't say yes of course you'll be 100% fine, but you can say that's scary, this is a scary time, this is very rare."

If they don't think you'll laugh at their concerns or roll your eyes at them, they are more likely to come to you in the future.



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