Iowa Specialty Hospital

Healthful Tips For Back To School

August 16, 2023

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Back-to-school is a busy time for both kids and parents.  Coordinating schedules, making sure everyone has what they need, and just getting back into the groove can take some adjusting after the long summer break. All the busyness that comes with the start of a new school year can sometimes take a toll on kids and parents alike. 

Parents can help make sure their children take the right precautions to make this their healthiest school year yet by following these helpful tips:

Schedule a back-to-school wellness exam

If you haven't already done so, now is the time to schedule a wellness exam for your child.  This is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy school year for them.  Your child's provider can make sure they are up-to-date on all of their vaccinations, they can check your child's growth and development, and they can perform screening tests such as hearing and vision.  Even if your child is in good health, well-child exams are a good time to focus on other areas of wellness, such as sleep, nutrition, and safety.

Set a strict bedtime and stick to it

A good night’s sleep is essential to good health for everyone. Both parents and their kids need to get their sleep, especially at this busy time of the year. Back to school health depends a lot on sound sleep habits, so it's wise to set a strict bedtime before the summer ends.

Adults need a full 7-8 hours in order to maintain good health, but children need more sleep than that:

  • Preschoolers: 10-13 hours
  • School-aged children: 9-11 hours
  • Teens: 8-10 hours

If your child has trouble falling asleep, consider their exposure to screen time. Studies show that viewing electronic devices can interrupt the body’s ability to fall to sleep. To help children wind down in the evening, put all electronic devices “to bed” at least 2 hours before your child’s bedtime. Parents can also incorporate bedtime rituals that are relaxing, such as a warm bath, cuddle time, and reading a story.

Maintain good hygiene

Thorough hand-washing throughout the day can never be stressed enough, especially when back-to-school time arrives. Germs lurk on every surface of every classroom. It’s important to a child’s health to teach them to wash their hands after using the restroom, before lunch, and after recess. Make sure they have access to hand sanitizer as well.

Parents can also stress the importance of not sharing combs, brushes, hats, and hair accessories like headbands. Lice thrive among school-aged children. Parents should check their child’s head each day and know the signs of head lice, such as excessive head scratching and the appearance of grey or white “sesame seed”-like particles at the base of the hair near the root.

Ensure a healthy diet

Parents should strive to begin their child’s day with a healthy breakfast. Yogurt, eggs, or a breakfast sandwich along with fruit ensures they start the day on a healthy note.

For lunch, avoid the convenience foods, such as prepackaged snacks and grab-and-go lunches. Although it can be time-consuming to make a child’s lunch, it’s far healthier for them. Parents can stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads or wraps, lean proteins, cheeses, and nuts. Easy-to-eat foods like baby carrots, apple slices, grapes, and melon chunks, can all be portioned ahead of time for easy lunch-packing.

Make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks on hand for after school as well. Kids work up an appetite during the school day, and it’s often a long time between lunchtime and getting home. Healthy meals and snacks will go a long way in keeping children's immune systems strong.

Control stress

Stress isn’t good for anyone, and without the tools to handle it, kids can suffer weakened immune systems, insomnia, and a whole host of other health problems. Back to school time can be stressful, especially if children are attending a new school.

Learn to spot the signs that your child may be harboring stress. Encourage them to share their day with you and take the time to listen. As tempting as it is for kids to get involved in extracurricular activities like scouts or sports, limit them to one activity and don’t overschedule -- that can stress everyone out.

Parents can help their child develop healthy ways to channel stress. Go for a walk as a family, draw with them, color in a coloring book, or play catch outside. Find ways to help them relax, and these habits will serve them for the rest of their lives. 

 

By using these tools, parents can ensure that their children start their school year off on the right foot as well as develop healthy habits that will benefit them all year long. 

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