Starting off on a Healthy Note: A Back-to-School Guide

Summer break is quickly coming to a close, and families are gearing up for the new school year. As parents, you may be focusing on all the school supply items your child needs, but let’s not also forget about supplying them with the tools needed to have a healthy start to the new year. Check out these important health topics and tips to keep in mind as your kids start back up at school.

Maintain A Healthy Sleep Schedule

Summer is a time for sleeping in. Now with school starting, waking up early and schedules filling up with homework and other activities, we need to make sure our kids are maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. 

 64% of teenagers say they are performing poorly in school because of a lack of sleep. Most Americans do not understand the idea of REST. We understand work, we understand play, but when it comes to rest, sometimes we put it on the wayside and forget about the importance of a good night’s sleep.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 9-12 hours of sleep are recommended for grade school children ages 6-12 and 8-10 hours of sleep are recommended for teens ages 13-18.

EXTRA TIP: For younger children, keep to a nighttime routine so they know what to expect when it is time to turn off the lights for bed. Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet and the noise level in the house is low.

Why are we not getting enough sleep? One of the prime reasons is the rise of technology.

Minimize Social Media and Screen Time

Statistics show that technology is now becoming a part of us. According to a report from Nielsen, the average American is now immersed in screen activity for over 10 hours per day and the typical cell phone user touches his or her phone over 2,600 times per day!

Kids are also impacted by what some professionals are calling phantom vibration syndrome, which is the belief that they are getting a notification (buzzing) on their phone up to every 60 seconds even when they are not. Teenagers or those with cell phones might also suffer from nomophobia, or the fear of being without their phone.

Every app wants to send you a notification and the blue lights of your screen trick your mind into thinking it is morning because the blue lights are similar to the light emitted by the morning sun.

The blue light also produces a chemical that releases adrenaline into your

brain that requires an hour to recover from. Our REM sleep cycle is often interrupted and thus the quality of the sleep we do get is decreasing.

EXTRA TIP: Have your child turn in their phones to you at night, or turn them off until they wake up in the morning. Turn off notifications overnight at the minimum. Sleep plays a vital role in all aspects of our health, mental, physical, and emotional.

Create Easy On-The-Go Snacks

Everything in moderation is my motto for a healthy lifestyle. Overall health is comprised of a balance of our physical, mental and emotional status. Maintaining adequate sleep, minimizing screen time, maintaining a balanced diet, and getting ample exercise is key to our children’s overall health.

With back to school being so busy sometimes we are eating extra take-out and processed foods throughout the day. I encourage our families to make any attempt to incorporate some healthy snacks throughout the day.

EXTRA TIP: One of my favorites are frozen grapes mostly because it requires minimal prep and is always refreshing especially during our hot summer months here in Arizona! Simply wash some fresh grapes throw them in a ziplock bag and place in the freezer.

Stay Hydrated - H20 to Go!

Image source: Leading Nutrition.com

 With soaring temperatures here in Arizona during the summer months, we need to make sure we are consuming enough water to stay hydrated and sending a water bottle to school with our kids.

The following is the daily water consumption recommended by the USDA

●      Young children up to eight years = 1.7 liters

●      Boys, ages 9-13 = 2.4 liters

●      Teenage boys and adult men = 2.7 liters

●      Girls, ages 9-13 = 2.1 liters

●      Teenage girls = 2.3 liters

●      Adult women = 2.7 liters

Water helps keep their body temperature at a normal level, carries essential nutrients to their cells, lubricates and cushions joints which are essential for kids who play in sports, and protects their spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. 

EXTRA TIP: Kids are prone to dehydration and don’t always recognize the early signs. So there are other ways besides water to keep them hydrated.  Fruit, fruit juice, and many vegetables are also excellent sources of hydration.  

Starting off the school year right can help us prepare our students’ minds and bodies for the rest of the school year. It takes time to create healthy habits. So start working with your children now and help them to be at their best.

I am so happy to be part of ALA and look forward to working with all the wonderful students and families. Please comment below with any other back-to-school health tips.

Written by McKenzie Buck-Friis, ALA’s new Director of Health Services. McKenzie has experience providing health care in a variety of settings including in-home, correctional, mental health, and specialty outpatient clinics. Additionally, she has context as to the dynamics of a classroom and school with her time working for the Fresno Unified School District. In addition to caring for patients, she has led teams, developed programs, and coordinated training.

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