When you’re a parent, the month of August tends to fly by. While your kids are relishing the final days of their summer vacation, you are up to your ears in errands. Do the kids have school clothes? A new backpack? Food for their lunches? A lunchbox to put it in?
In the midst of all the hectic school prep, it can be easy to forget about one important thing: your child’s health. The schoolyard can expose children to a host of different germs and viruses, so it is important to be sure that your little one’s immune system is ready to fight! Not sure where to start? Here are ten tips for a healthy, happy school year.
Ten Tips to a Healthy School Year
1) Have They Had Their Shots?
It is critical that your child is up-to-date on their vaccinations before setting foot in the school. Vaccines are one of the best ways to keep him safe from preventable diseases – and while you may put your trust in “herd immunity,” it is the unfortunate truth that disease outbreaks do happen. If you call your child’s doctor and make an appointment today, you may prevent his catching a horrible illness tomorrow.
2) Get Those 40 Winks.
When we sleep our body, is busy working. The memory grows stronger, muscles recover from the long,busy day, and stress even fades away. For children, the importance of sleep is even greater, as children who get ample time in dreamland get better grades and even show a decrease in ADHD-like symptoms. This is one health remedy no one can afford to pass up. Set a bedtime, and make sure the kids stick to it!
3) Cover Up Those Coughs and Sneezes.
As the school year progresses and cold and flu season hits, your child’s social circle will be plagued with coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. But you can help keep the virus from taking over your house by teaching healthy habits and modeling them yourself. Offer praise when you see your little ones covering their mouths or using a tissue to toss out all that nasty snot. If you start encouraging these habits early, you can have a healthy of kid well into November!
4) Hands Out of Your Mouth.
Children, particularly ones in elementary school and below, are constantly touching things. They touch their school supplies, toys during recess, the ground outside, each other’s hands. By lunchtime, the average kid has more germs on his hand than he knows what to do with. But you know what he shouldn’t do? Put that hand in his mouth, so all those germs get into his system. Help create good habits now by advising kids to keep their hands off their face and mouth.
5) Cleanliness is Key.
If your kid just isn’t getting the “no hands in the mouth” message, promoting regular hand washing can help alleviate those pesky germs. Of course, you ought to teach kids to wash their hands no matter what – it will be an excellent line of defense against germs all year round. Sing a song with the kids as they scrub, something like “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, so they learn how long they should be at the sink. And don’t forget to pack them a little hand sanitizer, in case soap and water isn’t readily available.
6) Sharing Isn’t Always Caring.
We spend our children’s formative years encouraging them to learn to share. However, the day we learn of a flu going around or a lice outbreak, all that sharing advice goes out the door. Explain to your kids the importance of keeping their water bottles, hair brushes, hats, and other personal items to themselves. This will keep germs from spreading schoolwide and keep you from taking a day off work to scour your baby’s scalp for nits.
I know, we parents spend most mornings in a frenzy, trying to get everything ready for the day ahead. It is hard to make sure we’ve got everyone dressed, ready for work and school, and fed a nutritious breakfast. But if we leave breakfast out of the equation, it becomes more difficult for our children to perform well in the classroom. Whip up something quick (and healthy) to be sure your child is alert and ready to tackle the day.
8) Does Their Backpack Fit?
Your child is in love with his new backpack, and wants to show it off on the first day of school. That’s wonderful! His enthusiasm is touching, and something I’m sure you’re proud of – but did he have to pack everything plus the kitchen sink in there? A third of children ages 11 to 14 have experienced back pain, and many lay blame with those big, heavy backpacks. Make sure your child packs only the essentials and that the backpack is adjusted to fit squarely on his back. His 30-year-old spine thanks you.
9) Exercise is Essential.
Between school, homework, and extracurriculars, you may think your child simply doesn’t have the time to get adequate exercise. Not only is this untrue, it’s a dangerous belief; children need exercise to build their muscles, strengthen their bones, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to force your child to run laps around the block! A few fun, outdoor toys can be a great way to encourage exercise in your house. And, for the record, this a wonderful opportunity for you to have some fun with them!
10) It’s OK to Call in Sick.
Shame on whoever invented the “Perfect Attendance” award. While it is important to go to school, and too many absences can be detrimental to learning, it is also important to care for your child’s health and well-being. Sometimes, that means staying home. If your child has a mild fever, or spend the night wide awake and coughing up a lung, there is no reason to force them to go to school. Not only will this make it harder for their body to bounce back, they will likely get another kid sick. So don’t sweat the absence; make sure your kid heals up first.