Back-to-School Routines

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on August 7, 2017

The new school year is right around the corner. Are your kids ready? We talked with two Carilion Clinic providers to see how they help their kids make the transition from the lazy days of summer to the structure and routine of the academic calendar. They recommend re-establishing regular meal and bedtime routines.

Thomas Milam, M.D.
Dr. Milam has four children ranging in age from seventh grade to college. A psychiatrist with Carilion Clinic Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine who has advised parents on back-to-school anxiety, bullying and other school-related issues, he offered straightforward advice for kids of any age.

“No matter the age, the right supplies and the right routines are necessary building blocks to success,” he said.

  • Shop for school supplies together. He notes that it can be a chore, but it can also be fun and exciting, especially for younger children.
  • Adjust sleep schedules. Have younger children begin going to bed earlier and getting up earlier at least a week before school starts.
  • Adjust dinner and nighttime routines. In Dr. Milam’s house, this includes dinner at the same time each night followed by doing the dishes, cleaning rooms, doing homework, dog chores, teeth brushing, showering and reading.

“We try to have each child end the day with reading, or being read to, for at least 30 to 45 minutes,” he said. “Sports and school events often disrupt these routines, but we all always know they are there and are expected, so there is less haggling and arguing at night over who is doing what and when.”

Dr. Milam notes that the bedtime restrictions are optional for his family’s high school students.

“They need all the sleep they can get,” he said. “And they have to take more responsibility for getting themselves up.”

Kathryn Self, M.D.
Dr. Self is a Carilion Children’s pediatrician in Franklin County. Her family takes a less structured approach to back-to-school planning. Two of her three children are still in school and are entering 11th and seventh grades.

“We really don't have any back-to-school rituals,” she said. “We focus on school supply shopping a couple weeks before school goes back and otherwise just try to plan for the adjustments in schedules once school is in session.”

Dr. Self shared several back-to-school strategies that have helped her kids over the years:

  • Adjust bedtimes and wake-up times in advance of the start of school.
  • Organize clothes and sort out what still fits and what needs to be replaced.
  • Clear out a quiet, dedicated space for homework and stock it with school supplies.

Like all parents, Carilion Clinic providers are busy this time of year stocking up on school supplies, thinking of new breakfast and lunchbox ideas and trying to get their kids to fall asleep before it’s entirely dark outside. By following these tips, their kids and yours will have a great start to a successful school year.