1. Getting Enough Zzz’s
By far, the most important school health issue for most kids is getting enough sleep - about 10 to 11 hours a night for elementary school-age children. That sounds simple, but the trouble is, it’s not always easy to make your child’s sleep patterns mesh with their new school schedule.
When parents work late, children’s bedtimes often get pushed back to create a window of family time. How can you argue with that? But to make sure your child can make it through the day without dozing at their desk, night-owl families need to start gradually shifting their schedules a few weeks before school starts.
2. Testing Eyes and Ears
You can’t expect a child to learn if they’re having trouble seeing the blackboard or hearing the teacher. So have your pediatrician screen for vision and hearing problems during your child’s back-to-school checkup.
Remember: You can’t assume your child has 20/20 vision just because they never complain about not being able to see. Children with vision problems may not realize the world isn’t blurry to everybody else. If your child often has headaches, tilts their head to one side to read schoolwork, or holds objects unusually close or far away to view them, it could be a sign that they may have a vision problem.
3. Lunch Time!
You may be planning healthy, well-balanced lunches to pack in your child’s shiny new Pokemon lunchbox. Just don’t be surprised if those turkey sandwiches and carrot sticks come back untouched. Eating in new surroundings and under tight time constraints can make some children’s appetites evaporate.
Don’t worry too much if your child only nibbles on lunch at school. Instead, focus on providing a protein-filled breakfast. With a little bit of fat and fiber from complex carbohydrates, your child will be ready to start the day.
4. Bathroom Break
Adjusting to classroom life can be overwhelming for a child who’s a little embarrassed about asking to go to the bathroom, and there’s nothing more humiliating than an “accident” at school. To help your child avoid any problems, have a talk ahead of time about school bathroom rules - taking breaks as scheduled, and raising your hand for permission to leave the room.
If you think your child may have wetting problems in school, take preemptive action. Before school starts, schedule regular bathroom breaks during the day, so your child gets used to going when directed. It’s also a good idea to talk with the teacher before that stressful first day of school.
The first day of school brings new friends, new activities - and a bunch of new germs. That’s why good hand-washing habits are critical for school-age children. Children (like adults) need to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom and before they eat.
If your child rockets out of the bathroom without stopping at the sink, consider sending them to school with a packet of antibacterial wipes. They’re not as effective as soap and water, but they may have more appeal for young children.
6. Get Moving
As your child blasts through the backyard like a whirlwind or jumps across the sofa-turned-lava pit, making sure they get enough exercise may seem like the least of your worries. But once children enter school, they’ll be spending most of their day sitting at a desk - and you can’t assume that recess and gym class are giving her all the daily activity they need to stay healthy and happy.
Kids need 20 to 30 minutes of regular, nonstop exercise a day. Physical education classes and after-school sports may not be enough. Try planning weekly bike rides and nature walks, and your whole family will benefit.