School is in session. No matter if you are sending your child off to kindergarten or their senior year, the transition back to school can be strenuous for children (and adults). As your family adjusts to the first month of school, don’t forget to put an emphasis on health.
Proper nutrition is an important part of preparing your child to succeed in the classroom. Back-to-school time is a great opportunity for parents to re-think their child’s nutritional needs. Stock up on healthy foods and make them accessible to your family. Take time on the weekend or a free evening to prepare grab-and-go style breakfast, meals and snacks that include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meat. Having single-serving portions ready to go will make on-the-go breakfast and packing lunches a breeze.If your child is eating the school lunch, become familiar with the menu. Review the menu with your child each week; this is a great time to talk about healthy food choices and nourishing their bodies. Hopefully these discussions will empower them to make healthy food choices as they grow. Also, if possible provide your child with a water bottle to encourage him or her to pass on drinks that are high in sugar and stay hydrated throughout the day.SleepNo matter your children’s ages, sleep is an essential part of their ability to stay alert and focused throughout the day. Although sleep requirements may vary among individuals, general recommendations on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website are as follows: most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, teens 9 to 10 hours, school-age children at least 10 hours and preschool-age children 11 to 12 hours. Sleep is vital to maintaining your child’s health; it is the body’s time to repair and refresh. Designate an age-appropriate bedtime; establish a nighttime routine for consistency.Encourage older children to practice good time management so they don’t find themselves up late at night finishing homework or cramming for a test. For example, studying a little bit each day of the week for a Friday test will prove more valuable than an all-night cram session.
Establishing guidelines for nightly technology use might be a good idea as well, so children and youth aren’t tempted to stay up late playing games or checking social media.
Taking steps to avoid illness once your child is back to school is important. With so many people around, germs are certain to be lurking in the classroom. Germs are easily spread when someone touches a contaminated object and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth. Talk to your child about the importance of keeping their hands away from the nose and mouth, as well as not sharing food and drink with classmates. Good handwashing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Remind your children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing, handling trash and before touching food, this will help get rid of germs. Encourage your children to always use soap and warm water and to scrub for at least 20 seconds to wash away the germs. It may be a good idea to provide your children with on-the-go hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes in their lunchboxes or backpacks to use when a bathroom is not easy accessible.
Be sure to have your children wash their hands when they return home from school, and you might even suggest they change out of their school clothes (if you are up for the extra laundry) to keep from spreading germs at home.
Careers, school work and after-school activities are very important, but please do not forget to schedule time in your family’s routine to address your health and wellness using these tips. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy transition back to school.
Megan Addison is the health and human sciences educator for Purdue Extension in Hancock County. She is a lifelong county resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.