Students have officially entered the last few days of summer vacation. With back-to-school just around the corner, your family may be starting to prepare for the new school year. While there are many things to keep in mind, your student’s health should be at the top of the list. Research shows that students who are physically and mentally healthy tend to do better in school both socially and academically. Here are 5 healthy back to school tips to help you prepare your student for a successful school year:
1. Set a Routine: Building a routine not only provides structure and comfort for your child, but it also encourages healthy habits they can practice for a lifetime. Here are a few examples of what your child’s routine could include:
- Prepare for school the night before; for example, pack a nutritious lunch, pick out your clothes, and brush your teeth.
- A set bedtime and wake-up time. Keep in mind that your child should be sleeping 8-13 hours per night (this amount varies with age).
- A list of tasks that your child should complete in the morning before leaving for school. For example, you might ask your child to get dressed, brush their hair and teeth, and wash their hands before breakfast.
Routines are often lost during the summer months. To avoid the shock of starting a new routine on the first day of school, begin easing into one 1-2 weeks before school begins.
2. Promote Healthy Eating Habits: Nutrition plays an important role in health and development. Consider using the following suggestions to guide you in ensuring your child is receiving the nutrients they need to function and learn their best.
- Your child’s meals should include at least 50% fruits and veggies, 25% protein foods (meat or plant-based), and 25% whole grains.
- If you have a picky eater, ask them to help you create a nutritious school lunch menu for the first week of school. You could also bring them with you to the grocery store and allow them to pick from a selection of healthy snacks.
- Eat together as a family. This encourages healthy family connectedness and a positive relationship with food.
3. Encourage Exercise Every Day: Exercise has profound effects on the overall health and wellbeing of students. It has been found that exercise improves cognitive health, strengthens bones and muscles, and decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It is recommended that children and youth get 60 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every day. If your child is getting less than the recommended amount of exercise per day, consider easing into longer exercise times. One way you could do this is by increasing their current amount by 10 minutes each week until you reach 60.
4. Prepare Medical Data: With a back to school checklist filled with which clothing to buy and supplies to purchase, it may be easy to forget about the medical side of things. Try asking yourself the following questions to jog your memory and tick off your medical checklist:
- Is your child up to date on their vaccinations? Schools may require that your student is up to date on their vaccines as they are meant to protect students from the spread of serious illness and disease. If you are unsure about whether or not your child is up to date, contact the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
- Does your child have any medical conditions or allergies that the school should be aware of? If so, is there a plan in place outlining what should happen if there is an emergency? For example, if your child has an allergy that requires them to carry epinephrine (e.g. EpiPen), ensure that the school has the (un-expired) device on hand and that they know how and when to use it.
5. Take Care of Everyone’s Mental Health: Going back to school is an exciting transition. However, it can often be accompanied by anxiety and stress – for everyone in the family! To make it easier on everyone, here are a few things you can do:
- Ensure everyone is getting enough sleep – poor sleep affects our ability to deal with minor stressors throughout the day.
- Stay active – studies show that exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood.
- Encourage your child(ren) to come to you for support if they have any worries or stressors. Patiently work through the issue together.
So there you have it! Five healthy suggestions to consider following for a successful back to school season. Wishing you all the best in the 2022-2023 school year.
Frances Nabigon, 3rd Year Nursing Student