Students are heading back to school in just a few weeks. While the start of the school year can be exciting, it can also feel overwhelming with new routines to implement and an endless list of things to do before the first day.
Following these essential back-to-school health tips will help both parents and kids initiate a smooth transition into the school year…
1. Reset Sleep Schedules
Sleep is essential when it comes to academic performance, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Get back-to-school ready and reset your sleep schedules by waking up and going to bed at the same time each day. While each individual child is different, on average:
- Elementary students and tweens need 9-11 hours of sleep per night
- Teens need 8-10 hours
If you’re worried about the amount of sleep (or lack thereof) that your child is getting, check out our blog posts about pediatric sleep problems and understanding teenage sleep patterns. In addition, here are some recommendations for creating good sleep habits.
2. Manage Emotional Well-being
Children often face increased anxiety and stress as the school year starts. This can show up as changes in mood or behavior, physical changes like weight loss or gain, a drop in grades, or difficulty sleeping. Help them to relieve stress by adopting some of these practices:
- Practice relaxation. Teach kids mental relaxation techniques such as pausing for deep breaths, using positive self-talk, and other methods. These are good for parents to practice too.
- Get up earlier for school. Rushing to school every morning is a stressful way to start the day. Ensuring kids (and adults) in the household have plenty of time to get ready can lower stress levels for everyone. Parents and children can pick out clothes, pack backpacks, and make lunches the night before to reduce the morning rush.
- Seek mental health support from your primary care provider and/or a therapist. Learn more about treatments for mental health in primary care.
3. Schedule Health Check-Ups
At a health checkup, your family medicine provider can provide valuable insight on how your child is developing, advise which vaccinations need to be updated, manage medications, and recommend preventative actions you can take to help your child stay healthy.
If your student has a chronic health condition, life-threatening allergies, asthma, and/or is taking prescription medications, be sure to give their school:
- Medication and medical treatment forms (aka medication and treatment order)
- A current bottle of medication, in its original container
- Any additional paperwork the school requires to manage these conditions.
4. Engage in Physical Activity / Sports
“Exercise is excellent for our brain health,” says Brian Nobach, WWMG Physician Assistant. “It can help improve health and mood in general. It helps us think better and learn better.”
How much exercise should you be getting? Nobach recommends 30 minutes a day, spread out over five days. There are many ways to increase kids’ physical exercise at home, such as yoga, jumping jacks, dancing, and more.
5. Make Sure Immunizations are Up to Date
Another back-to-school health top to protect your child and family’s health is to stay up to date with immunizations. If your child has a cold or feels sick, keep them at home to rest and avoid exposing others. In addition, remind them of the importance of regular handwashing at home and school to prevent the spread of illnesses.
Once School Starts
As you ease into the routine of the school year, it’s important to maintain healthy habits with your kids. We recommend you:
- Continue to reinforce consistent sleep schedules for your children (and yourself) in the weeks and months following the first day of xschool.
- Keep extracurricular activities at a manageable level. Keeping your child or your family too busy can negatively impact your child’s performance in school and do more harm than good. If those commitments are causing undue stress for your child (or you), it’s ok to cut back on some or all of the activities.
- Encourage kids to talk about it. At every age, ask your children questions about their day to open up the lines of communication. If you feel your child is not telling you everything, urge them to speak to a good friend or school counselor. Journaling is also a great way to process the stress of life’s challenges.
Prioritizing your children’s health during the back-to-school season will help set your family up for a successful and enjoyable academic year. Parents need to take care of themselves too, so you can show up physically and mentally healthy for your family, whatever life may bring.