Prepare Today for Tomorrow


by Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM

It has been said “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Home environments contribute to student school success when they support habits of sleep hygiene, develop useful routines, and establish healthful patterns.

Sleep Hygiene

Positive student performance today begins with the sleep of the night before! Because each child is unique, you as the parents are the best judge of how much sleep your particular child requires in order to be alert, pleasant, and cooperative the next day. Generally, experts suggest that children of ages 6-9 require 10 hours of sleep; ages 10-12 need nine hours, and teens function best with a minimum of eight hours of sleep nightly.

Sleep deprivation adds up over time, and it can lead to inattentiveness, decreased short-term memory, inconsistent performance, and delayed response time. These can cause bad temper, tantrums, and problems in school. In adolescents, sleep deprivation might lead to stimulant use and driving accidents.
Determine a suitable bedtime for school nights that includes personal hygiene and nighttime rituals. Anticipate bedtime by 15-20 minutes: dim lights, cease rough-housing activity, power down electronic devices, and eliminate agitating sounds and distractions. Provide a sleep environment that excludes sources of stimulation like TV, smartphones, electronic readers, or iPads. Eliminate sugar and caffeine intake after 6 p.m.

Weekday Routine

Plan a workable weekday schedule. Wake to a calm routine that includes sufficient morning time for a good breakfast, lunch preparation, commute time, and an opportunity to review the day’s after-school schedule. Consider preparing lunch and laying out school clothes and physical education uniforms/shoes the night before. Provide a heavy-duty cardboard box for your child to store school bags, projects, signed papers/permission slips, and paraphernalia needed for school.

If wake-up time is a daily hassle, get ahead of the problem! Explain to your child that it seems obvious that earlier bedtime is necessary. No doubt he or she will disagree vehemently. At that point ask him or her to suggest a solution to the problem, the goal being to wake up alert and cooperative. Agree to try the child’s solution for one week, explaining in advance that if the plan fails, bedtime will be 15 minutes earlier in the week ahead.

Should that not be sufficient rest time, you will provide 30 minutes extra sleep time during the following week. This approach puts the decision into the hands of the child. It is respectful and supports growth in autonomy and self-regulation.

Healthful Patterns

Develop healthy patterns of eating and exercise to fuel both body and mind. Encourage walking, bike riding, and sports. Take family hikes. Regulate meal times and snack times. Serve balanced, nutritious meals. Create an “available foods shelf” in the refrigerator that stores cut vegetables, low-fat yogurt, fruit, and other healthful choices. Nutritionist Sue Gilbert recommends the book How to Get Your Kid to Eat… But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter.


Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, October 2014
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