DETROIT – A new school year is fast approaching, and while there's still time for fun, experts said there are steps parents can take right now to help make the transition from summer to school easier for children.
As families soak up the last few weeks of summer break, it's time to start preparing for a new school year. Weaning children off of excess screen time is a good place to start, according to Cleveland Clinic pediatrician Kim Giuliano.
"Children who are exposed to electronics have a harder time paying attention and focusing and tend to be more anxious and irritable, so it really is important," Giuliano said. "Think about starting to get back to some of those healthier electronics habits now."
Giuliano suggested limiting screen time to 20- or 30-minute increments throughout the day.
Adjusting sleep schedules gradually is also important.
"It's good to start trying a few weeks in advance by just putting the child to bed, just 10-15 minutes earlier," Giuliano said. "Do that for a couple of nights, and then once that's a little bit easier, then another 10-15 minutes earlier and so on and so forth."
Giuliano said it's common for children to be nervous about going back to school. Parents should talk to children about their fears and be reassuring. A trip to the school might also be helpful, especially if they're starting somewhere new.
Some schools will let children visit, which is an opportunity. Other school buildings aren't necessarily open in the summertime, but even parking in the parking lot and walking up to the door, looking around the school premise, could help a child feel more comfortable.
Allowing children to pick out a new backpack or even folders with their favorite characters on them can also help to build positive anticipation for the first day of school. If children haven't seen their school friends during the summer, parents should schedule a play date so they can catch up before school starts.