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by Sarah Levin Allen, PhD, CBIS
It's that time of year again. By the end of the month, we'll be packing up our bathing suits, beach chairs, and shorts for the hustle and bustle of real life. Yes, it's back to early mornings, yelling about lost books, forgetting to brush teeth, wondering if one actually needs food to function, and homework, so much homework. And I'm not even talking about the kids yet, I'm talking about parents!
It turns out back to school transitions actually start with parents. We have to get in the right mindset and model this for our children. The same tips that work for kids, work for parents as well. Let's look at some of the neuroscience research to learn how to set our brains up for this transition.
Mental-set: First we need to get into the right mental-set or space in which our brains are ready to learn. That means taking steps toward changing our expectations from summer to fall. Set up a routine for the fall, make a list of supplies, and determine your goals for the school year!
Transition Planning: We have to give our minds time for a new routine. Start by managing your expectations, which will be different in the fall. Review them with your kids, but also understand that there will be hiccups in the beginning. These changes in expectations can include sleep schedules, eating, and exercise.
Sleep: Lack of sleep can result in inattention, difficulty learning, and increased behavior problems in kids and short fuses in adults. During sleep, your brain consolidates knowledge, stores memories, and cleans out the cellular debris to make room for the next day's learning. Everyone in your home should have a good sleep routine starting the week before school including a calm activity prior to bed like a bath or non-physical game, and a bedtime cue like music, a book, or song. This helps tell your brain that it's time to change activities. Grade schoolers generally need between nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Eating: The food you eat turns into power for your brain. Healthy eating can improve your mood, help you think faster, improve learning and memory, make you think more clearly, and maintain focus. This is especially important during the school year! Stick with green vegetables, nuts and seeds, low fat milk, hard cheeses, and fish. For an extra brain boost, add cinnamon and turmeric to your meals!
Exercise: When thinking about your routines, be sure to include physical activity for your family. Exercise benefits the body and brain. It can improve the ability to manage emotions, increase connection power, release growth factors to keep cells healthy, and support new cells. The key is to include a moderate level of different types of activities. The brain thrives on stress reducing activities that use the body in different ways.
Excitement: The last key is positive emotion. Get yourself and your kids excited about school. Talk about the fun activities, learning opportunities, and meeting old and new friends. Excitement increases the brain's desire, and therefore power, to change schedules, keep good sleep habits, eat well, exercise, and learn.
Following these healthy transition tips will get the entire family ready for the school year! Set up everyone up for success by being a good example and working with your children to set goals and maintain healthy brain habits for the school year.