Making the back-to-school transition smooth, safe and healthy
It’s time for our kids to head back to school, which can be harder for some kids than others—and hard for many parents. In order for everyone to adjust to the first month or two of school, it’s a good idea to consider some ways to make the back-to-school transition smooth, and to set your kids (and you) up for a safe and healthy school year. Here are five back-to-school health tips to consider.
1. Set bedtimes
Kids (and adults!) need a healthy amount of sleep each night to stay focused throughout the day. Although sleep requirements vary among individuals, most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night, and children and adolescents typically need more than eight hours. Sticking to a routine is important, too, so don’t let weekends become late-night free-for-alls. [See chart for details.]
2. Teach good hygiene habits
With so many people around, germs are bound to be lurking in classrooms. To help your kids avoid getting sick (and prevent them from bringing germs home), it’s important to show them how to protect themselves. Teach them to wash their hands after they use the restroom and before they go to lunch or eat a snack. It may be smart to provide your children with on-the-go hand sanitizer to use when washing their hands isn’t convenient. Some teachers even keep a large bottle of hand sanitizer for the class to use. You should also instruct them not to share food or drinks with other kids—especially kids who are visibly sick.
3. Stock up on healthy foods
It might be easy to pack your kids’ lunches with premade snacks and drinks—or let them eat school lunch regularly—but a healthy diet is of the utmost importance, and junk foods just don’t fit into the equation. Make it easier for yourself by stocking up on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, and lean protein like turkey. Take a few minutes during the weekend to cut up fruits and vegetables and prepare things like tuna salad or hard-boiled eggs for convenience on school mornings, and buy plenty of containers for nutritious dinner leftovers. Consider getting a small ice pack and an insulated lunch bag to allow more variety. Make it easier for your kids to choose the healthy option—though it may still take some time for them to fully jump on the healthy snack bandwagon.
4. Get vaccinated
You, your partner, and your children should all get vaccinated as early as possible in the school year. Many schools require certain vaccinations before children can enroll. Talk to your children’s healthcare provider and your doctor to find out which ones are recommended, and consider getting a flu vaccine, too. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
5. Manage stress
Back-to-school season is stressful for kids and parents alike, and too much stress can lead to a variety of health issues like insomnia and sluggish immune systems. Help manage stress by talking to your children about anything that’s bothering them, and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule, including your own. Homework and after-school activities are important, but it’s also essential to take time to relax, play, and spend time as a family. A balanced life is a healthy life.
All in all, going back to school can and should be a fun time for you and your kids. Taking some steps to prepare for the transition and changes in routines and schedules can pay big dividends. Do it right, and before you know it, it’ll be summer again!!