The days are getting shorter, there’s a slight chill in the air,
and soon the school buses will be out in full force as the kids make their
way back to the classroom.
Whether your child is starting their first year of school or they’re
returning for another year of learning, the new school year is the perfect
time to make a fresh start and create healthy new habits. As you and your
little learner embark on the new school year, we’ve assembled a
list of strategies to help make the year a healthy, happy one.
1. Transition Your Child to a New Sleep Routine
After a summer of late nights, late mornings, and sleepovers with friends,
your child may have trouble adjusting to earlier bedtimes and wake-up
calls. A general rule of thumb:
kids ages six to 12 need 9-12 hours of sleep each night, while older children
need eight to 10 hours.
Waiting until the night before to change your child’s sleep schedule
is a recipe for disaster (cue the “but I don’t want to go
to school” cries now). Instead, slowly begin to wake your child
up five to 15 minutes earlier each day about two weeks before the first
day of school.
Remove any blue light emitting devices (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) from
your child’s room one hour before bed and replace with calming activities
like taking a bath or reading a book. This will help your child
wind down before bedtime and cue their brain and body that it’s time to sleep. Reading together
each night helps to build your child’s vocabulary and is a great
way to spend quality time together.
2. Get Organized, Get Ready
Before the busy school year sets in, use
the week ahead to your advantage. Fill out all paperwork provided by your child’s school, update
their emergency contact information, and mark important dates like holidays
and parent-teacher conferences on your calendar. Stock up early on necessary
school supplies, like pencils, notebooks, folders, and backpacks (but
never more than 20 percent of your child’s body weight).
Before you shop for new fall clothes for your child, take inventory of
what’s in their closet now—what have they outgrown, what can
they keep and wear again, what do you need more of, etc.? Keep in mind
school dress codes while shopping, too.
Discuss extracurricular activities with your child, and start thinking
now about what’s realistic for your family’s weekly schedule.
Arrange for transportation to and from school, confirm after-school arrangements
with care providers, and set up a dedicated study station at home with
few distractions. This will make it easier for your child to be organized,
complete their homework, and succeed in class.
3. Set Your Child Up for Success
While a new school year is often met with a lot of excitement, it can also
be filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Between trying to make new friends
and learn new faces, classroom and homework requirements, and preparing
for a new routine,
some children struggle to concentrate and adjust, which can do a number on their school performance.
To set your child up for a productive, stress-free school year,
consider the skills they need to succeed. If your child struggles to juggle deadlines or manage their time, for
example, teach them how to organize their activities and study materials
using calendars, personal planners, and notebook dividers.
Children thrive with structure, so set up a schedule that balances school-related
activities with those they enjoy doing with friends and family. Relaxation
and playtime are just as important as school time in your child’s
day. Teach them relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or
yoga at home to help them cope with stressful situations, and plan family
activities that give your child something fun to look forward to throughout
the school year.
And, most importantly, offer a helping hand and gentle shoulder to cry
on when they need it.
4. Prepare Your Lunch Box Essentials
It may sound shocking, but a
study by the Baylor College of Medicine reports that packed lunches from home are often less nutritious than those served
at school. Researchers found that homemade lunches had less produce and
dairy, more sodium, and fewer whole grains than lunches in the
National School Lunch Program. The worst part? The study also found that 90 percent of homemade lunches
had sweetened drinks, snack chips, and desserts.
So, how can you make sure your child is eating healthy at school and getting
the important nutrients they need to learn and grow? Start with these
lunch box essentials:
- A fruit and/or veggies for vitamins and fiber
- A low-fat dairy like milk, yogurt, or cheese
- A source of protein like almond butter or lean meat for playing power
- A whole grain serving for energy
- Water for hydration
What about after-school snacks? Stock up on healthy in-between meal snacks
to keep your child’s energy level up. Instead of junk food, think
fruit, dairy, whole grains, or veggies. Apple slices with peanut butter,
fresh veggies with hummus, or low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers
are all smart snack alternatives.
5. Stay Safe
Teach your child to use extra caution when school is in session. Remember
that you’re sharing the roads with more school buses, pedestrians,
and bicyclists now. Your child should use lap and shoulder belts in school
buses, and stay away from oncoming traffic while waiting for the school bus.
More children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location, so it’s important that drivers slow
down and pay attention when kids are present. Don’t double park,
don’t load or unload your child across the street from the school,
and consider carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles at school.
Younger children should always be accompanied by an adult and never get
in a car with or talk to strangers. If your child uses a cell phone, remind
them never to walk while texting or talking on the phone and always be
aware of their surroundings. Never text and drive.
6. Schedule Doctor Appointments & Check-Ups
Don’t underestimate the impact your child’s health plays on
their school performance.
Healthy students are better learners on all levels of academic achievement: performance, education behaviors,
and cognitive skills and attitudes.
To keep your child’s health on track this year, make sure their immunization
record is up to date. Schedule your child’s shots, as advised by the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and your child’s school district. Schedule a vision test with
your pediatrician or an optometrist.
Make sure your child’s emergency contact information is accurate
and current. Provide your child’s school nurse and/or school secretary
with a list of your child’s current medications, plus instructions
and drug interactions. Your child’s school should be aware of all
health problems, including allergies and physical restrictions for conditions
like asthma, diabetes, or heart murmurs.
Schedule an appointment today with your child’s primary care doctor to get one step ahead of the
game this school year.