Before you know it the children will be heading back to school after a long summer break. The typical household enjoyed the summer with relaxed routines and bedtimes. But it will soon be time to focus on getting everyone to school/work on time, books, uniforms, new teachers, class mates, homework, sports and other after-school activities. Before the rigid routines begin, it might be a good idea to check out these five back-to-school health tips to set them up for a safe, healthy year:
1. Set bedtimes
New research has proven what our bodies keep telling us – it’s essential, not only for kids but also for adults, to get a healthy amount of sleep each night. Sleep is important for the following reasons:
- restorative for the brain,
- too little sleep alters levels of hormones that regulate hunger,
- growth hormones are secreted during deep REM sleep,
- insufficient sleep is associated with higher incidence of behavioural problems, i.e.ADD and ADHD,
- night terrors and waking up in the night in a confused state are often made worse by sleep deprivation,
- memory consolidation occurs during deep REM sleep,
- when kids sleep well their parent’s sleep better too!
Although sleep requirements vary somewhat among individuals, most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night, and children and adolescents typically need more than eight hours – 9/10 hours is ideal. To get your kids ready to wake up earlier for school, consider making their bedtimes a little earlier each night for a week or two before school starts.
2. Teach good hygiene habits
Schools are a magnet for germs; they lurk in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and restrooms. To help your kids avoid getting sick (and prevent them from bringing germs home), it’s important to show them how to protect themselves. Teach them to wash their hands / use hand sanitiser / handwipes after using the restroom and before going to lunch or eating a snack. You should also encourage them not to share food or drinks with other kids.
3. Stock up on healthy foods
A healthy diet is of the utmost importance, and junk foods just don’t cut it. The old saying ‘we are what we eat’ is right on the mark. It is a difficult job to get them to have variety, esp when they are picky eaters (which can equate to wasting money and food), but stocking up on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, cheese slices, lean protein like turkey, etc. may be a good way to start. Take a few minutes during the weekend to cut up fruits and vegetables and prepare things like tuna salad or hard-boiled eggs for convenience in the mornings, and buy plenty of containers for nutritious dinner leftovers. Always be on the look out for new ideas and try and get the kids to have more ownership of their lunches. If they help plan the night before what they will eat for lunch the next day, they might be more likely to eat their lunch.
4. Manage stress
The thoughts of having to deal with back-to-school traffic chaos & time deadlines are enough to make a parent’s heart drop, but add homework & test deadlines, and meeting new, challenging and changing social situations/pressures daily and you can imagine how it is very stressful for kids too. Too much stress can lead to a variety of health issues, like insomnia, sluggish immune systems and anxiety. Help manage stress by talking to your children about anything that’s bothering them, and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule, especially not your own. If you are tired and cranky they will be cranky too! Schoolwork and after-school activities are important, but it’s essential to your health and the health of your family as a whole to take time to relax, play and spend time as a family.
5. Get vaccinated
Make sure everyone is up to date with their vaccinations – that means Mum & Dad too – esp if you work in schools, hospitals or other healthcare centres. Flu season is around the corner – don’t forget that here at Walsh’s Pharmacy you can get vaccinated – check out the prices and criteria on our website https://walshspharmacycare.ie/flu-vaccination/