Summer is coming to an end and that means back to school is upon us! Back to school is an exciting time for most kids but with that excitement comes with new schedules, waking up early, and other stressors making the beginning of the school year a little more difficult. But, there are ways that you can help keep your kids and your family stay happy and healthy during the back to school season!

Get Plenty of Sleep

Having a strong immune system can mean the difference between getting sick and staying healthy. When kids and families have healthy and strong immune systems, they are more likely to stay healthy and “catch” the common cold or other illness. Making sure that kids get plenty of sleep is an important part of building a strong immune system. Most children need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Help your child get good sleep by setting the thermostat to 68 or lower, keeping the room as dark as possible by covering lights like power buttons on TVs and other electronics, and limiting blue lights emitted from phones, tablets and TVs at least one hour before bedtime. These helpful tips will help you child produce more melatonin (the sleepy hormone) naturally and promote more restful & deep sleep.  

Eat a Healthy and Balanced Diet

Eating a healthy and well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is another great way to strengthen your family’s immune systems. Make sure that kids eat a hearty and healthy breakfast before school and be sure to educate your children on the differences between healthy and unhealthy food choices. Try to limit the empty and liquid calories they consume each day such as processed foods, sodas and juices. A healthy and balanced diet includes making sure your children drink plenty of water. Help your kids get into the habit of drinking water before and during every meal as well as taking a water bottle with them when going to after school activities, especially ones outside in the heat!

Make Time for Exercise

Many children and families are busy between work, school, and shuttling to playdates and after school activities. But, it is important to ensure that your child is getting exercise every day. “17% of youth aged two to 19 in the United States are obese.” If kids aren’t playing sports during the week, make exercise family time by going for a walk or playing outside after dinner. By making exercise a priority for the entire family, can help keep you and your kids healthy and happy.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact childrens’ health, just like in adults. Be on the lookout for signs of stress in your child. It could be from schoolwork, tests, or even bullying.Talking about anxiety and how to recognize the systems can help to keep your child from feeling alone and isolated by their feelings. By arming them with tools and coping mechanisms, you can help your child to better manage their own stress and know when to ask for help.

Wash Hands Correctly and Often

Showing kids how to thoroughly wash their hands and more importantly, teaching them when to wash their hands is one of the most effective ways of staving off sickness this fall. Kids should make it a habit to wash their hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, playing with toys, and before and after eating. Hand washing not only helps keep your kids from getting sick but it also helps to prevent the spread of illnesses to other children at school.

Teach Good Personal Hygiene

Beyond hand washing, it’s important to talk to children about good personal hygiene. By instructing them to use tissues when possible or to cough and sneeze into the crook of their arm if no tissues are available. It is also good to teach them not to touch their face, eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible. This can help keep germs on their hands and from entering their body. In addition to washing their hands correctly and regularly, explain to children how often and why they should make sure they are brushing their teeth, bathing, and brushing their hair. Not only will this help keep them clean and healthy but it can also help to prevent a potential source of teasing or an uncomfortable talk with their teacher!

Backpack Safety

It is extremely common for kids to experience back pain due to a backpack that is too heavy, off-center or low-quality. When shopping for a new backpack for the school year, get a backpage that has padded shoulder straps and even a waist belt. If the backpack is too loose, tighten the straps. Getting a good quality backpack and ensuring that your child is wearing it properly can work wonders in preventing back pain. When packing the backpack, make sure it stays as light as possible and only contains the essentials of what they need. “The backpack should never weigh more than 10% to 20% of your child’s body weight.” Pack it with your child and show them how to properly pack their new backpack, placing the heaviest items closest to their back and the lightest items in the front of the backpack further away from their back. Throughout the year, make sure you check your child for uneven shoulders or hips, and make sure your child gets regular scoliosis checkups. Early diagnosis is key. For more on backpack safety, check out my Backpack Safety 101 post.

If you and your family adopt these strategies before and during the back to school season, you will greatly increase the chances your children and your family will stay healthy! What are some ways you keep your kids healthy during a new school year?

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