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Seven ways to get your whole family ready for the new school year Add to ...

Health Advisor is a regular column where contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging. Follow us @Globe_Health.

September brings a fresh start with the beginning of a new school year. If your child is going to school for the first time or returning after a summer break, there are plenty of ways to ease the transition. Here are seven tips to get the entire family ready.

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Re-establish bedtime routines

With the long days and late sunsets, bedtimes may have become a bit lax. The best way to get back to a regular schedule is to begin the transition a week in advance. Each night, start the bedtime routine 10 minutes earlier until everyone is comfortably back on track (and well-rested for the big day).

Set up play dates with school friends

Reconnect with parents in your area and schedule fun activities for the little ones. This will help them re-establish positive relationships and boost their social confidence before heading back to the classroom.

Start planning after-school activities

It’s not just about the classroom. Encourage your kids to pick out their favourite activities, whether it’s playing soccer, tap-dancing or painting, to participate in after school. But try to limit it to one or two activities, so they won’t feel overwhelmed when things pick up.

Turn off the TV

Be sure to inspire their creativity and healthy living at home too. Instead of watching TV, play quiet games, solve puzzles and work on art projects. It will better prepare them for a classroom environment. And then when it’s snack time, start swapping ice cream for equally delicious fruit pops or smoothies (they can even help make them).

Set goals and have fun

Talk to your child about what new items they need (or want) for the school year ahead and make a list. One day, you can shop for school supplies and clothes. Another day, you can pack their backpack so everything’s ready. Chart your goals on a wall calendar and let your child add a happy sticker whenever a task is complete.

Visit the school in advance

It’s a great opportunity to familiarize your child with a new environment, whether it’s simply a different homeroom or an entirely new school. If possible, meet with their teacher, find their classroom and answer any questions they may have to help them feel comfortable about the transition. Then when you’re home, write essential information (e.g. room number, teacher’s name) on a board near the fridge. Also help them learn the route to and from school for when they’re old enough to walk themselves.

Talk to your kids about the experience. And then talk about it some more

Using age-appropriate language, explain to them how their daily routine may change. The more they know, the better prepared they will be. Ask them how they’re feeling and don’t discredit any of their emotions. The more comfortable they feel discussing things with you, the more likely they’ll continue to open up during the school year, alerting you to any potential problems along the way.

Remember to let your kids know it’s normal to feel nervous – but everything will be okay. Here’s to an A+ school year.

Cathy Piedra-McKenzie is an entrepreneur, busy mother of two, and president and CEO of Kidville Canada, where parents and kids can put creativity, fun and family-time first. Visit the flagship location in Toronto’s Yonge Lawrence Village. You can visit her Facebook page at Kidville Canada and follow her on Twitter @cathy_pm

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