By Dr Julie Salomon, Paediatrician of the Qare network
For some, the start of the school year represents the excitement of novelty. For others, it is a recurring ordeal at the end of each summer that causes anxiety by just thinking about it! Here is a checklist to peacefully approach it:
1). Make sleep a priority: while on holiday we are naturally more lenient on bedtimes. During the last week of holiday try to wake them up earlier and shorten their naps. Older children are recommended to sleep between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night, and between 10 and 12 for smaller ones. By the end of summer we are usually far from it while this rhythm of sleep is an essential source of their stability. Let’s keep in mind that fatigue can affect mood and concentration, bring about anxiety, depression, weight gain, and for older children, alcohol consumption, and tobacco, coffee and psychotropic drugs. In one word, sleep is essential to our children, let’s give back to sleep the place it deserves!
2). Monitor screen time: from September between their commute, classes, homework and extracurricular activities, they should have little screen time. You should turn off screens an hour or two before bedtime. In addition, in order for them to have a restorative and calm sleep, it is highly advised to avoid any phones/smartphones in the child’s bedroom at night.
3). Get organised! As a parent, we know that the start of the school year for our children is ours as well. We have to get organised to ensure it goes as smooth as possible, despite our professional obligations. First, anticipate the purchase of school supplies, cloths, and sports and autumn shoes. Second, plan ahead for the baby-sitter or for the grandparents for those who can. Lastly, plan to not come home too late, and try to limit your business trips during the first days to stay reachable.
Stay in shape:
4). Go for extracurricular activities: After an often sportive and cultural summer, the extracurricular activities when thought out and selected carefully can be a source of motivation and personal development for our children. Be careful not to overload them. You have to ensure some free time, as it is physically and psychologically essential!
5). Get homework organised: After the long summer break, it is not easy for our children to go back into homework, nor to manage their own time. By getting involved you might be able to avoid the never-ending nights that conclude in family fights! Remind them that their professors generally do not take into account assignments given out by other professors, and that they should be completed as soon as possible to avoid them pilling up.
6). Schedule medical appointments: plan a medical brief with your GP on vaccine updates, and allergies with the update of the PAP (Personalised Action Plans). Take the opportunity to discuss sleep, food, and stress management… For your information, it is no longer necessary to present health certificates for sports activities that do no involve competitions.
Maternelle, collège and lycée… step by step!
7). Relax on their first day of school: it is a source of stress, but within a few days your child will have adapted and you will be reassured. Do not hesitate to explain to him/her about the different times of the day: from saying goodbye in the morning, to seeing each other again at night at home. The better the child is prepared, the better he/she will feel, and the better this step will happen for him/her and you!
8). Prepare the end of naptime for “moyennes sections”: In moyennes sections there are no more naps! To avoid our children from being tired, irritated, and confused try as early as possible to accustom your child not to have this hour of rest.
9). Collège: a great leap! Not only are they in a new and bigger establishment, the children will have to adapt to irregular timetables, a multiplicity of teachers, changing classrooms, and being with older and more advanced teenagers! At the beginning your child will feel a bit lost, stressed and vulnerable. On top of things, you will feel put at a distance, first by the collège. And second, from your child who will want to progressively show his/her independence from you…! You have to stay attentive, ready to listen, and preventing all while being careful not to share your anxiety with him/her. Overall, being the parent of a secondary school student represents a new challenge!
10). Planning the lycée: Help your teenager find a good rhythm between sleep, food, homework and screen/social media time. With their days being more filled, having to wake up earlier, he/she will feel both excitement of increasing autonomy and the first choices of orientation, but also the fatigue and anxiety that come with it. Overall, be cautious while respecting his/her freedom.