10 Tips for A Healthy Back to School
With August comes the annual journey of children going back to school. Thankfully, this year it looks like they’ll actually get to be there. Though the “back to school” season is always a time of high emotions, it doesn’t have to be filled with stress or anxiety.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that we’re sturdy and adaptable. Many of us took on the responsibility of helping our children learn through remote teaching. Now, with COVID-19 vaccines available to those as young as 12, most schools are reopening and starting the school year back at full capacity.
What does this mean for us as parents? It means we have the opportunity to help our children grow. This school year is not, of course, only about grades, but about helping kids develop the good habits that will help them prosper as adults.
Naturally, every school year requires some back-to-school shopping. While every year should also include some lessons in hygiene, it’s now even more important to make sure our kids are prepared with sanitation supplies and know their school’s procedures.
1. Learn the health and safety protocols at your school. While many (and perhaps most) schools will encourage staff, parents, and older kids to have complete vaccinations before the year begins, some parents are not comfortable with what they feel are largely experimental vaccines. With this in mind, many schools will still require anti-COVID measures like masking and social distancing.
Familiarize yourself with your school’s safety practices and help your child understand that the rules are for everyone’s protection. There are vast differences in how people feel about COVID and COVID protocols, but it’s always wise to teach our children to keep their environment clean and practice good hand-washing habits. While in the past it was kind of standard practice to let the kids attend classes if they didn’t feel really awful, it’s now frowned upon if they exhibit any signs of illness.
2. Get to know the teacher and school staff. Before school begins, it’s good to reach out to and stay in contact with your child’s teacher(s) – to get to know them and their expectations. We can let them know a bit about us, and our children. Collaborate if you have questions or concerns, but also ask how you can help make the school year better. Encourage your kids to build their own connection with their teacher.
We can also introduce ourselves to the school staff as well. Offer a friendly “Hello!” when you see them on-duty and try to learn and use their names. Remember that most teachers, regardless of politics or personal philosophy, want to help children grow. We can encourage them by showing our appreciation and supporting them by joining the PTA, volunteering in the classroom. All of that also helps us learn the subject matter our kids are learning.
Once School is in Session
Once the school year has begun, we want to be as involved as possible in our kids’ lives there, to guide them, help them, and celebrate them. Often times, the best support we can offer is by being a present parent. Naturally, present parents do more than dropping kids off and picking them up. Here are a few ways we’ve found to offer solid parental support.
3. Make sleep a priority. During the summer, travel, sleep routines, and changing schedules may disrupt kids’ sleeping patterns. Encouraging good sleep habits, like going to bed at the same time every evening, help kids get the sleep they need to stay alert during school.
By starting sound routines a week or so before school starts, kids can acclimate to the school year routine. Require going to bed and rising at times that deliver 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep.
4. Start the morning off with a healthy breakfast and provide a nutritional lunch. Children who eat a healthy breakfast have better concentration and focus. A healthy breakfast includes whole grains, a lean protein, and a fruit or vegetable. Avoid high sugar cereals.
A good lunch gives kids high energy levels and improves their focus throughout the rest of the day. Make sure they have a good, balanced lunch, but let them choose the proteins they enjoy. Include fruits and veggies for antioxidants and brain function, and a starch to keep them full. Add a personal note to boost that precious smile, and don’t forget a drink!
5. Involve your kids in at least one extra-curricular activity. Whether it’s a sport, club, school play, volunteer group, or regular events at the library, we broaden our kids’ horizons by helping them find things that interest them beyond normal curricula – something they’re proud to call their own. These activities help kids learn different skills and build connections with kids they might not otherwise know. A bonus for us, as parent, is that they also help them burn up all that excess energy!
6. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. When your kids and their friends see you as someone they can confide in and rely on, they’re more likely to keep communications open. That can help you better gauge the relationships they’re building and what goes on when within them. Plan fun activities with your kids and their friends – get to know them, see how they interact with each other, coach them if needed.
Meet as many parents as you can, too. Know who your kids’ Room Parents are so you can reach out to help or thank them. Exchange contact information and learn how experiences might be helpful in given situations. Learn who can lend a hand when you need it, and how you can return the favor. Keep in mind that other adults who spend time around kids can influence their behavior.
7. Create a routine to follow at home. Just as everything in the home has its place, establish places for school belongings and a regular time dedicated for homework. We can help kids learn sound life habits by having a designated place for their backpack and lunch box and by having an assigned time to review their homework with them. This could be after a snack, as soon as they get home, after dinner, or whenever. Just be consistent.
8. Create conversations. We should always ask open-ended, engaging questions -- and LISTEN CLOSELY to their responses. Avoid those simple yes or no questions that stop conversations before they begin! Go wherever your child takes the conversation. Flow with it so that they know you’re interested and can discuss anything with you.
Maybe they mentioned that there were tryouts for the school play…
Poor: Did you try out for the play?
Better: How did your audition go?
Best: What was your favorite part of the auditions?
9. Schedule an annual physical and make sure mandated immunizations are up to date. The start of the school year is a great time to get your kids’ annual checkups. Classrooms present the most common challenges for kids, and your doctor can alert you to any health challenges or changes he/she might detect. While at the doctor, be sure to verify that your child is up-to-date on required immunizations.
#10. Be Present and Supportive.
As parents, we’re the biggest influence on how the school year will go. How we interact with our kids, respond to their needs, and the depth of the relationships we maintain with them, their friends, their teachers, affects their emotions, attitude, and learning capacity. So, by all means, be as present and supportive as possible.
Establish family times, especially at meals. Attend their functions. Encourage them to share their hopes and dreams with you. When you make promises, follow through, and if you make mistakes, take responsibility. Children learn accountability as much by seeing us take responsibility for our actions as by our forcing them to own up to theirs.