Many schools are starting back in August now, which means it’s time to start buying supplies and getting ready to jump back into the routine! But that’s not all—there’s a lot involved with a new school year. So here are some back to school tips focused on promoting good health all year long.
Back to School Tips to Support Your Child’s Health
The following are some of the biggest health-related areas of concern when starting a new school year plus ways to address them.
1. Avoid Unhealthy Eating Habits
Jumping from the freedom of summer to a more rigid and busy school year can take a toll on kids’ health. It’s easier to miss breakfast or grab something quick for dinner when things are chaotic.
Plus, you probably can’t control everything your children eat when they’re away, especially if they spend time at friends’ houses or travel for extracurricular activities.
You can dictate what’s eaten at home, however, so try to provide more wholesome packed lunches and dinners at home during the week. Choose simple kid-friendly recipes that incorporate vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins, and whole grains as much as possible.
(And if they’re picky eaters, keep introducing healthy foods at home anyway so their taste buds will adjust over time.)
2. Prevent Lack of Sleep
Just like adults, kids need a full night’s sleep to feel and perform at their best. So, one of the best back to school tips is to make sleep a priority.
Put a healthy sleep schedule in place that’s good for everyone:
- Count 8-10 hours. That’s how much sleep most kids need. Start with the time they need to wake up and count back to calculate when they need to be asleep. Factor in extra time to actually get in bed and fall asleep.
- Avoid exercise, caffeine, or electronic devices at least an hour before bed. These can all be stimulating and make getting to sleep harder.
- Read a book together or encourage them to read on their own.
- Have a small snack before bed. This can be comforting and help some kids get to sleep.
3. Watch for Head Lice and Scoliosis
These are two of the biggest health risks school-aged children can face:
Head lice are small parasites that commonly infect preschool- and elementary-age children and their families. They’re easily transferred through head-to-head contact, so check your child often after they’ve played with friends.
Signs of head lice include feeling itchy, tickly, or like something is moving in the hair. They sometimes look like dandruff, but can be distinguished by looking closely.
Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that can affect kids. Make sure your child gets regular scoliosis checkups (most schools do these) and watch for any uneven shoulders or hips.
4. Be Aware of School Bullies
Bullying is unfortunately a risk of being in school, but it’s never okay.
Watch for any changes in your child that are signs of bullying. Those could include:
- Changes in behavior, such as being distant or angry
- Depression, anxiety, or self-harm
- Sudden changes in school grades or performance
Alert school officials about any bullying, and make sure an adult can watch out for your child when you aren’t there. Teach them that it’s okay to tell a teacher or other school official what’s going on.
5. Check for Vision Problems
Good vision is crucial for your child to have the best school performance. If you notice them squinting, tilting their head, or holding books or homework papers too closely, it’s probably time for a trip to the eye doctor!
6. Avoid Backpack Strain
With all the books, papers, and school supplies, backpacks can put a lot of stress on kids’ shoulders and backs, so:
- Help your child pack as lightly as possible and remind them to always use both shoulder straps.
- Look for a backpack with wide and padded straps that support the back better.
- Or better yet, consider a rolling backpack if the school allows one.
7. Be Open and Supportive
Starting a new school year can be exciting, but also stressful. If your child seems nervous about the new year, take them to visit their classroom before the first day. Talk with them about their concerns and let them voice their worries to you. Then, discuss the positives this year will bring and ways they can have fun with it.
Overall, let them know you’re there if they need to talk about anything that happens throughout the year. Use your family activity time to have open discussions with your children while keeping them physically fit.
Also, get to know their teachers. Discuss your child’s strengths, interests, and areas where they might need more help.
The Bottom Line
Use these back to school tips as a reminder that children’s health is greatly important for learning, growth, self-confidence, and a positive experience in school. Addressing any physical or mental health challenges at the start can help set your child up for health and success all year long.