A Healthy Start to School

For many families September means settling back into a regular school schedule. As kids head back to class, there are strategies parents can incorporate into the daily routine to help children stay healthy and perform better in school.

Manage your child’s sleep

Most kids don’t get enough sleep. Generally, preschoolers should sleep 10 to 12 hours per night, and school age/early middle school children should get between 10 and 11 hours of sleep. Most teenagers in middle and high school are well rested with eight to nine hours of sleep. To promote uninterrupted sleep, keep cell phones and other electronics out of children’s bedrooms at night. Kids should get up at the same time each day, including weekends, and avoid staying up late on weekends.

Eat healthy

Make sure children eat breakfast – even if it’s just a granola bar or a portable yogurt. Breakfast foods with protein, such as peanut butter, are the best options. Pack school lunches with whole grain breads or wraps, fruit/raw vegetables, soups and milk. Avoid white bread and foods containing a lot of sugar. If kids eat school-prepared lunches, review the menu with them and suggest choices with less fat, sugar and salt. (The website, kidshealth.org, offers helpful school lunch tips.)

Exercise frequently

Studies show that children who exercise regularly (30-60 minutes several times weekly) sleep more restfully and get better grades. Exercise doesn’t have to be structured. Bicycling (with a helmet) and playing outdoors are simple ways for kids to stay active.

Be prepared

Mornings can be a busy time. To help ensure stress-free departures, have kids select their school outfit the night before. Be sure all homework is finished before children go to bed and have backpacks packed and ready by the door.

Trust your instinct

School can be stressful for some children. You know your child best, so if he or she acts differently, or you notice mood or personality changes, talk to your child. Issues such as test anxiety and bullying can sometimes cause these types of changes. If necessary, contact your child’s doctor, teacher or the school counselor for guidance.

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