Parenting: Your Game Plan for a Strong School Year

By Dr. Molly Casey

School Routine

How we start projects, events and experiences sets the tone for how well or easily they’re carried out and, in turn, how successful they are. This is no different for the kiddos. In order for your child to transition most easily, perform optimally, gain the most, and be able to keep the momentum from the beginning of the school year through the end, the tone needs to be set at the start. The journey can shift at any point along the way, but it’s much easier to start out on the right foot. There are three categories to pay attention to so that your child, their teacher and class, and your household, can have the best chance for the best school year yet.

Systems

Create systems and follow them. Humans thrive when there is a system and structure to carry out tasks and achieve goals. You can also have systems that include unstructured time, free time, a chance to simply be. So don’t give the excuse that “so and so does better with no structure.” It will look different depending on the child. The point is to get one that works for them in place and follow it.

Think in terms of morning, after school, and before bed. List the things that need to be done in each of these areas to be considered a great day to set them up for optimal success. For example:

Morning - Wake up either by parent or themselves/alarm (be specific), dress, teeth brushed/personal hygiene, make bed, breakfast and free time.

Afternoon - After school snack, 45 minutes of free time, homework, household chores, then free time the rest of day.

Bedtime - Pack bag for tomorrow, lay out clothes, shower, and lights out by 9 p.m.

When your kids are younger, you’ll play a greater role in establishing times and patterns/flow for this. Have your kids engage with you during this process. As they get older, give them more freedom, choice, and opportunity to engage and create their own systems so long as the goals are ultimately met.

Your kids, you, and anyone involved in their care should be clear on these systems. Hang them up in their room if need be. But here is the trick: follow them and reward the kids for success whether that be on a daily or weekly time frame. Rewarding good behavior will have a much better chance of continuing good behavior -- for adults and kids alike. Celebrate because it makes the effort worth it.

Sleep

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sleep is a weapon. This goes for kids and adults alike. It is incredibly common in this society to have overscheduled, under-rested kids. This creates an enormous amount of undue stress on the child physiologically because most still need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night. When a child isn’t getting enough sleep it can create a cycle of stress and overextension that can affect every area of life. They are still growing, so do not underestimate their need for sleep. Keep the bedtimes consistent. Make sure the room is as dark as possible. Follow a rule of no screen time for at least one hour before the lights go out.

Spine

Remember spine health. The spine houses the nervous system. The nervous system is the communication system. The healthier the spine is, the better the communication system. An optimally functioning nervous system is required for everything, including learning new information, retaining and applying information, adapting to new activities and stresses, and overall health and development of your child. Not to mention that it’s required for any of the fun, recreational or sporting activities in which kids like to participate. Take your children to the chiropractor prior to the start of the year and get them adjusted, then make sure they have a regular care plan for their spine and stick to it.

A strong start to the year offers your child and everyone involved in their life -- school or at home -- the best chance for the best year. They’re learning behaviors and how to move through life, so create systems to facilitate their success. Make sure they understand the importance of a sleep routine and that sleep is a weapon to be used for good. Lastly and most importantly, illustrate the essential role the communication system and spine health plays in their life -- whether it be with regard to school, life at home, or recreation. Stop into The Joint Chiropractic and let the chiropractors help you help yourself and your kids as you start this school year. Here’s to the best one yet.

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