It’s that time of year again! The pencils are sharpening, the backpacks are zipping, and the tears are starting to come… back-to-school! Back-to-school is a stressful time for all children (maybe even more so for their parents). Children will face increased stress and pressure this September as schools have been mainly operating remotely for over a year. With Ontario opening up and summer coming to an end, this month’s wellness blog will be focused on the four pillars of health that are important for all children as they transition back into their school routine!
1. Start to Re-Establish the Sleep Schedule Early
We are going to start off with a big one! Sleep. Sleep is essential for practically all aspects of daily cognitive and motor function. A lack of sleep can impede the ability to learn and participate in a meaningful manner while in the classroom.
Recommended sleep duration for children are as follows:
- Children in JK to Grade Six should be getting 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night.
- Children in Grade Seven and up should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
Following a proper sleep schedule is the simplest way to ensure that your child can properly manage the mental and physical stressors that come with the back-to-school season! If you are interested in reading more on the importance of sleep, you can read my full blog on sleep and mental health here.
2. Use the School Lunch to Establish Healthy Eating Habits
Establishing healthy eating habits with your child at a young age will have a profound impact on their lifelong health profile. A school lunch presents an excellent opportunity to kick off healthy eating habits as an activity and initiates your child’s critical thinking ability.
Did you know that France treats lunch as a school curriculum? It is used as an opportunity to instill the importance of nutrition at a young age. There is no reason parents in Windsor-Essex can’t do the same thing! Involve your child in the process of making a nutritious lunch. Teach them what food groups are important, why they are included within a meal, and provide the tools they need to make smart food decisions independently.
3. Promote Physical Activity and Limit the Screen Time
Children need to be physically active during their developmental years (more than ever as lockdown spiked average daily screen time for youths). Too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, chronic neck and back pain, stress and anxiety, and increased obesity levels. Ironic that I am talking negatively about screen time while you are reading this blog, I know! But I am not saying eliminate the screens, limit them.
Increasing your child’s physical activity levels can lead to:
- Improved cardiovascular and brain function.
- Improved personal confidence and stress management.
- Improved social interaction with peers (through sports and activity).
If you are interested in reading more about how physical activities impact your brain health, you can read my blog post here!
4. Establish Strong Communication to Improve Mental Health
It is important to upkeep communication with your child from the start of September and throughout the entirety of the school year. Your child will likely face a plethora of new stressors with the back-to-school season (particularly with the impact COVID-19 and Ontario lockdowns) and open communication is an excellent outlet to handle the stress, anxiety, and pressure that may come with schooling.
I recommend focusing on the four pillars of your child’s health as they transition back into attending school in person here in Windsor-Essex. These four pillars are adequate sleep, healthy eating habits, physical activity, and mental health exercises. I hope all of my young patients (and their parents) have a smooth transition back-to-school and a great school year!