Back-to-School Health Tips
With the return of the school year approaching (or already here, in some states!), it’s important to make sure your child is both physically and mentally prepared to succeed in the classroom.
Here are several key health factors to their success in school, and how you can help them succeed:
Tackling Back to School Nerves
Many children become nervous about new situations, including changing to a new school, classroom, or teacher. This may occur at any age but is very common amongst younger students (middle school or younger). To help:
- Remind them that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- If your child seems nervous, ask them what they are worried about and help them come up with solve ways to overcome their fears. It could be doing a particular activity, mental exercises, or something else.
- Attend any available orientations and take your child to tour the school before the first day if there is an opportunity to do so.
- Remind them that they’ll see old friends again (if returning to the same school) and they’ll have opportunities to make new ones (especially at new schools).
- Make sure your child is well-fed and gets a good night of sleep before his or her first day.
Develop a Good Sleep Routine
Sleep is critical to your child’s ability to stay energized and pay attention in class. Elementary school-aged children need 10-12 hours of sleep each night, while middle and high school students need 8-10 hours.
To help your child develop good sleep habits:
- Don’t let them drink caffeine for 4 to 6 hours before bed. While caffeine can stay in a person’s system for up to 12 hours, its stimulant effect is at its strongest during the first 4 to 6 hours after consumption.
- Supervise their electronics usage, particularly around bedtime since the bright screens of electronics can stimulate them before bed and make falling asleep difficult. This might be tougher for middle to high school-aged students who need computers to complete homework, but do the best you can.
- Encourage them to read before bed since reading has been shown to help people fall asleep and achieve better sleep quality. They can even save any homework that requires reading for before bedtime, so they both get their work done and put themselves in a good position for a good night of sleep.
- Particularly for younger children (since older students may have varying degrees of homework each night), set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Also, having a regular bedtime routine will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Components of a calming pre-bedtime routine may involve a bath/shower, reading with them, and tucking them in and saying good-night to them (for younger children).
Develop Good Homework and Study Habits
It’s critical to create an environment and develop habits that are conducive to doing homework at an early age. Here are some ideas to help you out:
- Create a consistent, quiet space for your child to do homework. If he or she doesn’t have a workspace in his or her bedroom, consider creating space in a separate part of the house that’s free of distractions. A library is also an option, particularly for high school and older-aged students.
- Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time (unless it’s being used to complete assignments!).
- If your child is struggling with a subject, encourage them to see their teacher for extra help. For high school and college-aged students, many teachers and professors will offer “office hours” at a consistent time every week for extra help.
- If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school.
- Be available to answer questions and aid your child but never do their homework for them.
- If the school does not give your child one, consider getting him or her an assignment notebook. This will help your kid keep track of homework assignments and due dates, as well as upcoming tests.
Eating During the School Day
Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast have improved concentration and perform better in school. To help your child with their eating habits, consider the following:
- Some schools provide breakfast for children. If your children’s school does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein and vitamins. Some ideas include eggs, whole-grain bread, cereals (that aren’t too sugary), and yogurt.
- Many schools regularly have their cafeteria schedules posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main options are not of interest to your kid.
- Encourage your child to pick healthier options, including fruits and vegetables. While pizza and other tasty yet unhealthy options are fine in moderation, try to make sure they don’t eat junk food for lunch every day, whether it be in the lunch you pack for them or the options they choose at school.
- Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately ten teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60 percent. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.
Have a question? Contact us at Advocate@DirectPathHealth.com