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Get Back to School the Right Way

From age-appropriate sleep guidelines to your parenting mindset, here are the 3 ways to tackle the back to school season with intention (and calm).
Last Updated
March 22, 2023
posted on
August 29, 2016
Minute Read

Is summer getting shorter, or is it just me?

June flies into August and as soon as smoke from the Fourth of July fireworks leaves our nostrils, we are back at Staples tossing binders and pencil cases into our carts. Here we are again.

Each new school year brings a host of emotions. We are hopeful that this year, our daughter will meet classmates who won’t make fun of her. Our son will do better in math. Our teenager will make the Varsity soccer team. We are hopeful, we are scared. What if this year is worse than last year? Some of us march into September holding our breath. But we don’t need to.


1. Be proactive, not fearful.

Decide to parent proactively, not fearfully. So many decisions we make for our kids stem from fear rather than from strength.

We manipulate schedules to get our daughter the “right” first grade teacher, scared that if she gets the “wrong” one, her year will be miserable. Who says?
We make our 16-year-old hit the gym every morning in summer so that he’ll have a leg up when he tries out for varsity soccer. We can’t see him get cut from the team again. Are you sure?

I suggest that rather than pushing and prodding our young ones into places that we feel they should be, we give them breathing room.We mustn’t be afraid for our kids: that they’ll get the wrong teacher or not make the team. Some of these are important life-defining moments!

We must teach our kids that they are tough enough to handle what life gives them.

2. Help them develop a positive attitude toward school.

If your son loves language but hates science, go to the library and get him a Spanish version of Harry Potter and ask him questions about it. Read books together and chat about them casually.

If your daughter hates sports but likes math, ask her if she would like to be in a math club or start one. Don’t make her play basketball, but ask her to go on walks or bike rides in the evenings with you. In other words, be enthusiastic about her strengths and downplay things that bore her.

When parents playfully (not competitively) invest themselves in their child’s interests, kids respond.

3. Put them to sleep.

Nothing helps foster a positive attitude more than adequate rest. Like clockwork, parents haul exhausted first graders and teens into my office starting in November. Many worry about leukemia, brain tumors, or mono. These maladies are far rarer than a simple lack of sleep.

Don’t let this happen to your child. Before school starts, rein in bedtime and help his body establish a healthy sleep rhythm. Healthy hormone regulation depends on adequate sleep. Most kids fight sleep, so you need to help.

Follow these general guidelines when setting kids’ bedtimes:

Ages 5-6 = 10-12 hours of sleep each night
Ages 7-12 = 10-11 hours of sleep each night
Ages 13-18 = 8-9 hours of sleep each night

Kids adopt their attitudes from their loved ones—especially their parents. Life will go well if we parents make a few small behavioral shifts: live with positive, grateful attitudes, establish calm routines at home, and talk to our kids as though they can handle the curve balls that life brings. Even though they are small changes for us, they produce enormous changes in our kids.

What’s life like in your house this school year? Looking forward to it or dreading it? Why? What changes can you make in your home to start the new year the right way? 

Dr. Meg Meeker

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello on instagram: @MegMeekerMD or by email:

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