9 Tips to Prepare Your Child for the New School Year
This article was created in collaboration with several CHRISTUS Health providers.
As the summer break draws to a close, it's time to gear up for the upcoming school year. Here are a few things to consider.
- Boosting Immunity
- Sleep Before School Starts
- Supporting Mental Health
- Preparing Your Child to Handle Bullies
- Navigating Social Dynamics
- Promoting Digital Safety
- Walk to School Safely
- Preparing as a Parent
- Know the Signs of Poor Eye Health
1. Boosting Immunity
Boosting immunity is a consistent, long-term strategy to maintain overall health. But summer sleep schedules and diets can take a toll on all of us.
Before school starts, focusing on healthy habits again is crucial, ultimately boosting your child's immunity. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Healthy Diet: Encourage a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Certain micronutrients and vitamins are essential for the immune system to function properly.
- Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can boost your child's immune system and overall health. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against various diseases.
- Adequate Sleep: Sleep has a strong regulatory influence on immune functions. Ensure your child gets enough quality sleep each night.
- Good Hygiene: Teach your child good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing, which can help prevent infections.
- Stress Management: Chronic stress can negatively affect the immune system. Teach your child stress management techniques suitable for their age.
- Stay Hydrated: Water plays a role in producing lymph, which circulates white blood cells and nutrients to your body's tissues, protecting it from illness.
- Up-to-date Vaccinations: Keep current with all recommended vaccines. Vaccines prime your child's immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in the body.
Learn more about protecting your child with immunizations.
2. Sleep Before School Starts
Consistent lack of sleep leads to a "sleep deficit," making it harder to focus on schoolwork and other activities.
When added to the equation, stress can result in mood swings, overeating, and potential weight gain. Insufficient sleep and excessive stress can contribute to weight gain because they significantly influence metabolism. Individuals who are tired and stressed often feel hungrier than usual and crave foods high in fat, salt, and sugar, leading to late-night snacking.
The Solution: The demands of back-to-school schedules can make getting adequate sleep and maintaining nutritious family meals seem insurmountable. However, it's possible and essential for a calmer, more productive school year.
Learn about sleep apnea in children.
3. Supporting Mental Health
Starting a new school year can be stressful. Here are some ways you can support your child's mental health:
- Open Communication: Encourage your child to express their feelings and assure them that feeling anxious or worried is okay. Regularly check in with your child about how they're feeling.
- Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and adequate sleep can significantly impact your child's mental health. Encourage these healthy habits.
- Professional Help: If your child's anxiety or stress seems overwhelming or persistent, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They can provide strategies and treatments to manage these feelings.
Read more about teens and anxiety.
4. Preparing Your Child to Handle Bullies
Bullying is a serious issue that many children face during the school year. It's crucial to prepare your child for how to handle such situations. Start by explaining what bullying is and the different forms it can take, such as physical, verbal, or cyberbullying.
Reinforce the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness, and clarify that bullying is unacceptable. Teach your child strategies for dealing with bullies, such as confidently saying "stop," walking away, and reporting the incident to a trusted adult.
Creating a safe and open environment where your child feels comfortable discussing these issues is important.
Learn more about what to do if your child is being bullied.
5. Navigating Social Dynamics
Returning to school means navigating complex social dynamics. Here are some ways you can prepare your child:
- Understanding Their Emotions: Help your child discuss their emotions about going back to school and help them express them appropriately. Understanding emotions will help your children understand their feelings and empathize with others.
- Communication Skills: Encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully. These skills include listening to others and responding appropriately.
- Respecting Differences: Teach your child to respect and appreciate differences in others, which includes differences in appearance, beliefs, abilities, and backgrounds.
Remember, social skills are learned over time through practice. Provide plenty of opportunities for your child to interact with peers and give them positive feedback to reinforce good social behavior.
6. Promoting Digital Safety
In today's digital age, educating your child about online safety is essential, especially as more learning moves online at public and private schools.
Understanding Online Safety: Teach your child about digital literacy, including the importance of privacy and the potential consequences of sharing personal information online. Discuss online etiquette or "netiquette," emphasizing the importance of respect and understanding that online actions can have real-world consequences.
Setting Internet Rules and Educating About Online Dangers:
- Set rules about screen time and the type of content they can access.
- Teach them about privacy settings and the importance of not sharing personal details online.
- Discuss potential online dangers like cyberbullying, online predators, and scams.
- Encourage your child to come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them uncomfortable.
Not sure how much screen time is okay for your child? Find out why pediatricians recommend no more than 2 hours per day.
7. Walk to School Safely with These 10 Tips
If your child walks to school, review these safety tips with them regularly:
- Always use the sidewalk and crosswalks
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- Don't use headphones or mobile devices when walking
- Follow all traffic signals and signs
- Walk with a buddy whenever possible
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Don't talk to strangers or accept rides from them
- Wear bright clothing to be easily seen
- Plan and practice the safest route to school
- If something feels wrong, go to a trusted adult
8. As a Parent, Get Prepared for the School Routine
Routines provide structure and can help your child feel more confident and prepared for the school year.
Establishing a routine can help your child transition smoothly into the school year. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Establish a Schedule: Set a consistent schedule for sleep, meals, homework, and free time to help your child know what to expect each day.
Prepare the Night Before: To avoid morning chaos, encourage your child to prepare for the next day the night before. This could include packing their school bag, laying out clothes, and preparing lunch.
Encourage Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help your child focus, reduce stress, and sleep better. Try to incorporate some form of exercise into your child's daily routine.
Plan Healthy Meals: A balanced diet can contribute to your child's overall health and ability to focus on school. Plan for healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
9. Know the Signs of Poor Eye Health
Good eye health is essential for children. With their growing bodies and minds, they must have a healthy vision to be able to perform well in school, both academically and socially.
Poor vision can interfere with a child's ability to learn and participate in class and activities. If the eyes are not functioning correctly, it can cause difficulty in reading or writing, leading to frustration and poor school performance.
If your child exhibits any of these behaviors or if you notice any signs of eye strain or discomfort, it's important to have their eyes checked by an eye doctor.
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