It’s that time of year again. So many things to deal with as the school year approaches. Let’s see what we can do to make the transition easier for everyone.

The biggest change is the schedule. During the summer it’s normal to relax the rules about when to go to bed and how early to wake up. This is one of the toughest changes to deal with. Remember that your kids really need about 8 -9 hours of sleep at night to do and feel their best. To get them onto the school year sleep-wake schedule introduce the changes gradually over the last week or two before school starts. You’ll need to plan ahead so you have enough time because you’ll be making bedtime a bit earlier each day until you reach the magic “normal” school-year bedtime.

In tandem with the bedtime, move the wake-up time closer and closer to where it needs to be during the school year. Done gradually, say a change of 15 minutes at either end every other day, the impact on your life will be minimized. Similarly, breakfast is a huge hassle for most families during the school year. Reintroduce the school breakfast routine during this transition period so that it starts to resemble the pattern you’ll hope to establish during the year.

Kids who’ve been away at camp or travelling during vacation now come together at school and within a week or two we see an increase in the numbers of kids and then their parents and then the community suffering with sore throats and colds. To stop these infections from spreading, remind your children about hand washing and provide them with hand sanitizing solutions. Get them into the habit of coughing or sneezing into the angle of their elbows and using their hand sanitizers.

Set the example yourself. Wash your hands when leaving the bathroom and before eating and throughout the day if you cough or sneeze. Hand washing is still one of our best defences against the spread of illness.

Vaccines are important, too. Make certain that you child is up to date and if they are going to be living in dorms talk to your doctor about the meningitis vaccine and others that are especially important for those situations.

Are you ready for your child to be at school? We always focus on our kids and their transition but the lives of their parents also change. As you schedule your child’s back to school doctor appointment, this should be a reminder to schedule your own. In the morning rush to get everyone out on time or the after school activity marathon, it’s very easy for the stress to get to you. Schedule some time for you so that you can stay at your best. Consider yoga or meditation or just a walk around the block, but plan something for your own health as you work on getting the kids back into the normal school routine.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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