The start of a new school year can be stressful for children and parents. As a parent, you may worry about things like your child’s academic performance, health, and relationships with other students and teachers. And while you can’t keep an eye on your child at school, you can encourage healthy habits starting at a young age.
Tip one: Focus on your child’s nutrition:
- 40% of total daily calories for 2-18 year olds are empty calories from added sugars and solid fats, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and foods that provide more protein and fiber.
- If you have a picky eater:
Continue introducing new foods. Preparing foods different ways can help.
Be a role model for a healthy diet.
Don’t use food as a reward. Encourage choice, like an apple or grapes?
Tip Two: Know the risks your school-aged child may face!
- Head lice: the most common way to get head lice is by head-to-head contact that often happens during play time, sports activities and sleepovers.
- Scoliosis: watch for uneven shoulders or hips, and make sure their backpacks weigh no more than 20% of their body weight!
- Bullying: only 17% of children seek help after being bullied. Don’t miss the early signs like changes in behavior, anxiety, depression and self-harm.
Tip Three: Make sleep a priority!
- Children (and adults!) lose sleep due to overuse of digital devices. Shut them down before dinner!
- Sleep is EQUALLY as important as diet and exercise.
- Most healthy children need 8-10 hours each night. Set a bed time and stick to it. Calming rituals -- bath, reading, and soft music -- will help. Your child will awaken fresh, with less fuss, if you set a regular schedule.
Tip four: Be a partner in your child’s education, health and wellness.
- Establish rules for when and where homework gets done. Talk about your expectations for how school fits in with extracurricular activities.
- Discuss age-appropriate chores for after school. Research indicates that “children who have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.” (Center for Parenting Education)
Tip five: Stay healthy and safe
- Schedule a visit with the doctor's office for a flu vaccine and other vaccinations that are required.
- Fill out emergency contact information and names of people who can pick up your child. Also, notify the school about your child’s health needs, medications, or allergies.
- Find a quiet time to talk with your child about his or her feelings about starting school.
- Help your child memorize your home address and the phone number you use most often.
- Teach your child to cough and sneeze into a tissue, or elbow or shoulder if a tissue isn't available. Also, talk about healthy hand washing and healthy sharing of toys and personal items.
- Review with your child guidelines about talking with strangers and getting into other people’s cars.
- Talk with your child about being kind to others, making friends, and how to handle bullying and teasing.