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5 Tips to Get Your Kids Up for School

Once school is back in session, you can get everyone out the door faster with these morning timesavers.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

Going back to school means the relaxed, lazy days of summer are about to give way to packed schedules, homework, after-school activities, and -- toughest of all -- waking the kids up early. The change of pace can be a jolt to the whole family.

So, how, after months of sleeping late, do you get the kids used to earlier wake-up times without creating household chaos first thing in the morning? Here are five tips to get your kids out of bed and off to school.

1. Start Planning Early.

Family psychologist David Swanson, author of HELP-- My Kid is Driving Me Crazy, says it’s important to recognize that transitioning from the relaxed schedule of summer to the structure of the school year is a process. “Parents make the mistake of waiting until the last minute,” Swanson says. And if you wait until the night before school starts to get the kids to bed early, you can't expect a smooth morning.

Start preparing your kids at least a week before school starts. Jill Spivack, LCSW, co-author of The Sleepeasy Solution, The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep, advises calling a family meeting to establish a new sleep schedule and get everyone on board.

“You have to sit with kids and explain the value of sleep,” Spivack says. “We want them to understand sleep nutrition is as important as food nutrition and that a lack of sleep can have major consequences.”

Many studies have shown that a lack of sleep can hamper physical and mental health. Tweens and teens aged 11-17 operating on too little sleep have shown an increase in anxiety, depression, and physical pain. School performance often declines too. A study of fourth- and sixth-grade students showed that after losing about one hour of sleep over several nights, students performed worse on a test that predicts their ability to pay attention in class.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids aged 5-12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Children aged 10-18 need a little less -- 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night. But most kids don't get enough sleep.

You can show your kids that you know – and care -- that getting back into a routine may not be fun. But also let them know that the schedule change is meant to help them feel good when they are at school. “It comes from a place of love and education about the importance of sleep, and not control,” Spivack says.

2. Look Beyond Bedtime.

“If we approach sleep appropriately," Swanson says, "we look at a kid’s whole day. If you want your kids back to sleep on time, have dinner at a set time and limit the computer, TV, and video game time,” he says. “You’re not just trying to get them back to bed, but into a routine.”

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