A Healthy School Year
Monday, August 13, 2018
My kiddos are now grown, married, and off on their own but as September approaches my mind wanders to memories of school shopping, sport practices, and those first days of school. It was a happy but hectic time. Gathering school supplies and making appointments while trying to soak up the last days of summer was tricky. Getting things lined up, however, made for a happier, healthier household. To give your children the best possible start this fall, it is important to look at their overall health and prepare now for the challenges and celebrations of the new school year.
1. Lullaby and good night
Elementary children need ten to eleven hours of sleep per night – teenagers need eight to ten hours. Sleep deprivation severely affects children’s behavior and health. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include: moodiness and irritability, temper tantrums, the tendency to emotionally ‘explode’ at the slightest provocation, over-activity and hyperactive behavior, daytime naps, grogginess when they wake up in the morning, and reluctance to get out of bed in the morning.
During the summer, kiddos often are allowed to stay up later. To prepare for school, experts suggest getting onto the school schedule ahead of time. At least two weeks before school, try to get everyone in the household on a healthy sleep schedule that mimics the school year.
Even if you manage to get the kiddos off to bed earlier, don’t be surprised if they are exhausted during the first few weeks of school. A 30-minute after school nap or quiet time (without technology) may be in order to revive everyone!
2. Eyes, Ears, and Shots oh my
Learning is tough if you can’t see the whiteboard or hear the teacher. Have your pediatrician screen for vision and hearing problems. Don’t assume the child’s vision is 20/20 just because he never complains. Children often think their blurry vision is normal. Some possible symptoms of poor eyesight include headache, tilting head to one side to read or do homework, having difficulty seeing certain colors, or holding an object unusually close or far away to view it. While you are at the doctor’s office, make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Flu vaccines are also recommended for all school-age children. Check with your physician for vaccine availability in the fall.
3. Yummy for the Tummy
One word –breakfast! During the morning dash, breakfast often falls to the wayside or is a quick bowl of cereal high in sugar and low in nutrition. Start your child’s day off right by making a breakfast with protein and complex carbohydrates. This combo pack will give your kiddo sustained energy through the morning hours. Academic performance improves when the brain is fueled properly. Some ideas for healthy, tasty breakfasts include mini whole-wheat bagel with nut butter and bananas, low-fat Greek yogurt with nuts, and berries, or egg burrito (scrambled eggs and low-fat cheese wrapped up in a tortilla shell) with fruit on the side. In a real hurry and need to eat in the car? Grab a cheese stick, whole-wheat crackers, and an apple or whole-wheat tortilla smeared with peanut butter and a banana.
4. Scrub a Dub Dub
Never fails, within a week or so of school starting, the cold and tummy bugs appear. Germs abound as the little ones congregate. Good hand-washing habits are critical for school-age children. Children and adults need to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom and before they eat. Regularly remind and encourage your child to wash his hands. With smaller children, stand at the sink with them. Wash your hands together for 20 seconds, which is the happy birthday song twice round! While handwashing with soap and water is the most effective, pack hand sanitizer in the backpack or lunchbox for those times when a sink is not available.
5. Calendar Check
Children and teens need a balance of school, extracurricular activities like sports or music, and unstructured free time. Overly busy children may be stressed and sleep deprived. This ultimately effects their health and behavior. Before committing to an activity, lesson, or sport, ask the following questions:
· Will there still be time to play? Free play (not screen time) is important for child development. It is stress-free, creative, physical, and fun.
· Do you still have time for family dinners? Students who eat meals with their families have higher academic achievement and better social skills. Eating as a family is a great way to teach children about nutrition, routine, and ritual. It is also a great way to share the best, worst, funniest, and grossest (kids love this one) parts of our day.
· Will everyone in the household be getting enough sleep?
· Is my child going to have enough time to do homework?
Finally, consider slowing down. Children grow up fast. Enjoy the moments together. Try skipping the Saturday routine and instead escape to a local park or go on a hike. Have an adventure and build memories as a family.