PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Preparations for the upcoming school year are a little different than in years past. After a year of online and distance learning, parents will need to help their kids into a fresh routine and new place to make school much easier once it starts.
Kids and teens need 9-10 hours of sleep a night to get enough melatonin in their systems. That regulates their hormones, giving them energy — and it only resets with sleep.
That means getting your kids into bed well before 10 p.m.
Brain researcher Dr. Patrick Porter suggests that parents, in the weeks before school begins, start their kids’ mornings with stimulating activities, like exercise or reading a book, before allowing them any screen time.
“Because if they’re used to just walking out, turning on the television, we need to stop that as soon as possible,” Porter said. “I mean, they can have their television time, but they should be getting their brain ready for learning first.”
He said a chronic lack of sleep can lead to ADD and ADHD symptoms, disassociation and hypervigilance, which makes your kids extremely sensitive to their surroundings.
Porter suggests families create a family nighttime routine: lights are turned off or dimmed as the sun goes down, screens are off 2 hours before bed, dinner happens 3 hours before sleep and should include healthy fats like avocado or nuts. He also suggests putting red, warm lights in children’s rooms to trigger their brains to wind down.
And, he said, if the entire family takes part in this ritual, there will be less pushback.
Regardless of age, OHSU Psychiatry Professoer Dr. Bonnie Nagel told KOIN 6 News going back to in-person learning will be challenging for students because it will inevitably look different than it ever has before.
There are ways to ease this transition, she said.
Nagel suggests setting expectations with your kids by talking with them — weeks in advance — about what school will look like this year. Keep things positive, she said, but avoid ambiguity.
“I feel like kids are pretty resilient. I don’t have major concerns for kids in terms of mask wearing or distancing. They sort of roll with this stuff. And if anything, if we can just say, this is the way it is, this is what to expect. And it’s all going to be fine. And we have confidence in that. I think it will serve them well,” she said. “And I think it’s important to really highlight the resilience of children and that they can roll with differences in life probably a lot better than we can.”
Parents should be ready for a new emergence of separation anxiety in an effort to avoid this coming school year. Nagel suggests starting summer mornings with regular social interactions with their peers in a safe way.
She also said to be aware of an increase in emotions or irritability, like excessive crying, during the back-to-school period. Nagel said to expect it but nip it in the bud.
But parents should definitely seek out help for your kids when they need it. Getting kids in the classroom together is going to be the best thing for them, she said.