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COURTESY: ADVENTIST HEALTHIt was fun while it lasted, but the fleeting days of summer are nearly over as kids throughout Portland prepare for school this September. Instead of packing for another camping trip or binging on late-night pizza and Netflix shows, it’s time to load up backpacks, grab lunch bags and speed out the door to the idling bus.

But before sending your kid off to a new classroom and teacher, or a new school altogether, remember that they may need help getting back into the swing of things, from establishing a better sleep schedule to setting priorities.

Consider the changes or hurdles your child may face this school year, and together, prepare for the year ahead. It may be helping them brush up on vocabulary for AP Spanish, or rooting them on to try out for the dance team. For elementary school, it may be teaching them to listen better or share with others.

For younger and older kids alike, it could be helping them overcome the fear of a new classroom and new kids—flying solo is intimidating, no matter your age. Remember that last networking event you attended?

SIDEYPreparing in advance and offering encouraging words along the way will make the transition back to school easier and set everyone up for a successful year.

“Parents should sit down with their children before schools starts to help prepare them for the year ahead and address any concerns they may have,” says Dr. Atarah Sidey, a family medicine specialist with Adventist Health Medical Group. “School can be scary for a lot of kids, young and old, and it’s helpful to speak with a parent or guardian about their worries or reservations.”

Dr. Sidey and Adventist Health have a few tips for parents as their kids head back to school.

Establish a routine

Two weeks before school starts, kids should start going to bed earlier each night leading up to the first day. When school arrives, they won’t be dragging themselves out of bed.

Quality sleep is important for overall health, and it improves memorization and creativity. It could even mean the end of teenage mood swings. Help your child establish a healthy routine so they’re getting all their homework done and getting to bed on time, while still leaving room for fun.

Discuss nutrition

Kids are still growing, whether they’re a toddler or off to college. Maintaining a nutritious, plant-based diet will keep kids healthy. A balanced diet will boost energy levels, improve learning and promote growth and development.

Eating well is also important for preventing chronic diseases, including diabetes and obesity, which affect more and more children at a young age. Packing tasty, nutritious lunches that incorporate fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy will keep your child away from vending machine snacks.

Play ball

Or lift weights, or join the track team, or take a P.E. class. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate daily activity will keep kids healthy. Encourage your child to join after-school sports or an intramural league to get exercise and make new friends.

For younger kids, recess is a time when your child should be outside swinging or playing kickball. They’ll be able to better focus on their studies if they make time to move around. Promoting regular exercise, nutritious eating and healthy choices early on can help prevent chronic diseases down the road.

Put yourself in their shoes

A new school or classroom can cause anxiety, from worrying about who they’ll eat lunch with to their athletic abilities in gym class. Making friends can be tough. A new environment could even trigger an accident for younger kids. Send a change of clothes to school to have on-hand so they can continue their day in clean clothes and avoid embarrassment.

For older kids, it may be the stresses of heading off to college and being on their own for the first time. Addressing their worries or fears together and encouraging positive decision making could boost confidence, self-esteem and overall health.

Discuss their class list, teach them to cook healthy meals and do laundry, talk about healthy choices, and be understanding when they call for help or advice.

Help them prioritize

Being a kid can be stressful with all the pressures from society, peers and teachers. There are rigorous classes, volleyball tryouts, college applications and after-school jobs. Not to mention that looming chemistry test on Friday. All those things add up to a stressful day, week or term.

A positive and loving home environment provides a safe place to retreat from the chaos of being a teenager or gives them a weekend away from college lectures and dorm life. Talk with your child about their extracurricular activities, workload and social life. They may just need a listening ear and some encouragement, or they may need help with time management and establishing priorities.

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