With the school year fast approaching, parents may be anxious about their kids returning to school, where contagious diseases can easily spread. Visiting the doctor before the start of the school year and getting vaccines such as the annual flu shot are good practices to prevent illnesses. Parents can also set up a healthy routine at home with their child to ensure good health.
Here are some back-to-school tips to keep your child’s mind and body healthy throughout the year and help them perform their best in school.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
- Sleep 10-12 hours every night. Build a routine with your child for a good night’s sleep.
Eat three well-balanced meals a day
- Eat wholesome foods for breakfast, like whole-grain cereal or fruit, improves kid’s concentration and energy throughout the day.
- Avoid sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juices. Lower your child’s sugar intake with these tips!
- Increase family time by eating meals together. Get cooking with kid-friendly recipes and control portions by using the Plate Method.
Practice good hygiene
- Wash hands for 20 seconds—sing the “Happy Birthday” song two times to keep track of the time! Pack a hand sanitizer or wipes for your child when they are on-the-go.
- Floss and brush their teeth before bed to help prevent cavities.
- Avoid sharing food or drinks. When using water fountains, kids should avoid putting their mouths on its surface and run the water for a few seconds before drinking. Alternatively, have your child carry a water bottle.
- Be physically active for at least 40 minutes each day.
- Build daily habits such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of riding public transportation add up to being active.
- Apply sunblock to your child’s face each morning, regardless of the time of year. During the summer, reapply sunscreen if they are outside and minimize direct sun during peak hours (10am to 4pm).
Limit screen time
- Put away tablets, TV, computers, smartphones, and video game consoles during meal times and at least 1 hour before bed. Excessive screen time use is related to various problems, such as poor school performance and sleep issues.
Carry light and well-fitted backpacks
- Find a backpack that is wide and padded. The bottom of the bag should sit at your child’s waist.
- Kids should use both straps to prevent muscle strain. Bags should be no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. Try to clean out backpacks weekly to get rid of unnecessary weight.
Practice street safety
- Make sure your child is wearing seat belts when riding in a vehicle.
- Have your child check both ways for cars and bicycles when crossing the street. Also, avoid using phones and hand-held games when walking.
Have open talks
- Find time to have a conversation with your child at least once a day. Talking with your child early in life can help establish a routine which can help make expressing feelings less of a struggle.
- When talking to your child, be patient and do not to criticize your child or compare them to other children, as this may hurt their self-esteem. Most importantly, try to understand your child’s potential emotional and mental health and do not be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, teachers, or professionals when you need it.
Eating healthy, sleeping well, and being active all contribute to a kid’s health. Having a supportive family is also essential for a kid’s well-being. Kids can experience a lot of stress from not only school but also from their extracurricular activities and social life. It will not always be clear when your child is distressed, so make sure you create an open environment that allows your child to feel comfortable coming to talk to you about any issues that they may have.
Written by Kayla Fong
Kayla Fong was a Health Education volunteer at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She is currently a sophomore at Wellesley College, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish. During her free time, she plays on volleyball teams including the New York Strangers, located in Chinatown.