5 Tips to “Be Well” when going Back to School!
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Back to school is usually an exciting time for families. Children are happy to re-connect with classmates and many parents welcome the return of a more normal schedule and routine. Last year was incredibly unique, as most schools across the country started (and stayed) virtual, which put tremendous pressure on parents, teachers, and students as we all navigated an untraditional school year. Now, one year later, here we are again. This time facing more uncertainties as children prepare to return in-person to school while COVID cases continue to rise across the United States. As a parent of a 7 and almost 5-year-old, I feel all the things. The fear of COVID and my children’s physical health, the worry about our family’s mental and emotional health as we continue to navigate the uncertainties of another school year during a pandemic, and even hope that things will get better.
As we look upon this upcoming school year with mixed emotions, I would like to offer some tips on how to prioritize your family’s health and wellness as they return to school.
1. Stay up-to-date on the latest CDC guidelines
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, or turn this into a political discussion, I simply
want to urge you to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding vaccines, masking, physical distancing, handwashing, testing, etc. If your child isn’t feeling well, keep them home and contact their healthcare provider. This isn’t the time to point fingers, it’s time for all of us to do our part.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast everyday
Have you ever heard the saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Though there is some debate around this statement, there’s plenty of evidence to support that children who eat a complete breakfast perform better in school. According to Nemours, not only does breakfast give children the energy they need to start their day, but children who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and participate more in physical activities. However, it’s not only important that your children eat breakfast, but what they eat also matters. Ideally a balanced breakfast including carbohydrates, protein, and fiber is best to help supply energy and provide a feeling of fullness. Visit this Nemours KidsHealth site for more information and ideas for healthy breakfasts.
3. Ensure a good night’s sleep
Do not underestimate the power of sleep! Getting enough sleep is important for
everyone, especially children. According to Dr. Rachel Dawkins from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, children who get adequate sleep show improved memory, behavior, attention, learning, and overall health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3 to 5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep (including naps), ages 6 to 12 get 9 to 12 hours, and teenagers 13 to 18 sleep for 8 to 10 hours per night. Try to establish a consistent bedtime routine each night and begin “winding down” prior to their actual bedtime.
4. Get outside before and after school as much as possible
The CDC recommends that school-aged children
get 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
Ideally children can be active throughout the school day during recess and physical education classes, but that time may not add up to a full 60 minutes. Therefore, it’s important that they are afforded time to be physically active outside of the school day, and a fantastic way to do that is to schedule time for outdoor play. If you are able, try walking to and/or from school, take advantage of your school’s playground or a local park before or after school for some play time, or simply send them out in the yard to run around and burn off extra energy. Kids are cooped up in a school building for long enough throughout the day, so the opportunity to get outside for some fresh air and sunshine will do them good!
5. Prioritize mental health
This is a big one! I think it’s fair to say that everyone reading this has experienced some sort of mental health challenge over the past year-and-a-half. Whether you contracted COVID, know someone who did, lost a loved one, or just had your world turned upside-down by a constantly changing routine, it’s been a lot. Though our children are incredibly resilient (could you imagine learning to read virtually while your teacher focused on 20 other little faces on one computer screen?), I still very much worry about the long-term mental health impacts this pandemic will have on all of them. So, what can you do? Talk to your kids. Let them know that it’s ok to feel stressed, depressed, and/or anxious during this time. If you are worried about them, seek help and guidance from your healthcare provider or a school counselor. Mental health is just as important as physical health when we talk about our overall well-being, so be sure to check in with your kids daily to ensure they are doing ok.
Here’s to hoping and praying for a safe and healthy school year! Until next time, let’s help our children "Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well."