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Back-to-school season comes with anticipation and excitement for what’s ahead in the new year. But the start of school can often feel overwhelming enough to create anxiety and stress for families. 

Here are 8 tips to make the transition back to school a smooth one.

Ease into a New Routine
Summer often means later bedtimes for kids, unstructured mornings, and a slower place in general. About a week before school starts, start practicing your new back-to-school routine with an earlier bed and wake-up time so your kids can eat breakfast, get dressed, and head out the door. This will help them get into a predictable flow and help the change not feel less abrupt. Children are often more comfortable with routines, and a little practice will make the first day of school easier on everyone.

Talk to Your Children About What Will Change
Communicating with your children about what’s expected during the school year is important for a smooth transition. Explain clear guidelines about homework, bedtime, and getting to school on time every day. Ask your children if they have questions or input, and listen to any concerns they might raise. The conversation should be focused on just two or three points, but keep the dialogue open so children can participate.  

Set a Solid Sleep Schedule
Proper rest is important for a healthy and productive school year, so it’s imperative to establish a regular bedtime routine. A bedtime of 7 to 8 p.m. is recommended for younger children, and preteens should go to bed no later than 9 p.m. To help kids feel rested, remember how much sleep their bodies need. Kids ages 5 and 6 need 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night while 7 to 12 year olds need 10 to 11 hours. Twelve to 18 year olds should sleep 8 to 9 hours.

Prepare a Designated Study Area 
Establish a special place at home for your child to do homework. The space should look and feel consistent so kids so they can easily find the tools and supplies they need to study. For an effective work environment, make sure you remove all distractions by keeping smartphones and other technology out of reach. Set clear limits with your child and let them know that using social media—Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook—is not allowed during study time.

Set up a Calendar
A new school year means a new set of school functions, after school activities, and parent-teacher conferences. Keeping a dry-erase board or large desk calendar in your kitchen is an easy way to help your family keep track of upcoming activities, meetings, pick up times, and playdates. While keeping important dates written down in your day planner or stored in your smartphone is a good idea, a calendar for everyone to see at home is helps your family be on the same page.

Find a Balance with Afterschool Activities
Structure and routines are beneficial to children, and afterschool activities can help children thrive. Joining the soccer team, participating in theater, or taking dance lessons help children develop socially, build confidence, and burn off energy after being in a classroom all day. The trick is finding the right balance. Wondering if your child is overloaded? If they are struggling to finish their homework, get at least eight hours of sleep each night, and hang out with family and friends, then they are likely spread too thin.  

Get Organized for Lunches and Snacks
Back to school means packing lots of lunches. Clear out a section or your refrigerator for school lunch items that need to be chilled—sandwiches, veggies, fruit, grab-and-go yogurt, and cheese sticks—so you can quickly add them to your child’s lunchboxes. For afterschool, make a snack station by clearing a pantry shelf that’s low enough for your kids to reach so they can help themselves to snacks like granola bars, raisins, nuts, and other healthy treats. 

Create a Filing System for Important Papers 
Setting up a filing cabinet or three-ring binder or even a folder on your computer where you can keep schedules, class lists, and teacher contact information is a good way to stay organized. When your child comes home with schoolwork or artwork, figure out what can go and what stays. Place any keepers in a storage bin and go through it at regular intervals to see which items you want hang on to for good. At that point, place those items in a three-ring binder for safekeeping.

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