Children are back in school, which means it’s time for different routines. As we approach the end of daylight saving time, gone are the days of barbecues, staying up late and what seems like endless screen time. As children transition to being in school again, their daily habits must shift as well. Luckily, there are steps we as parents can take to ensure a smooth transition and get our children on the right path to success this school year.
The first step is to create, and stick to, a regular sleep schedule. Children may be used to staying up later in the summer than they normally would during the school year, so the first few weeks of school can be tough to reestablish a regular bedtime.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 6-13 get about nine to 11 hours of sleep per night, while high school students should get eight to 10 hours. Unbalanced amounts of sleep, sleep deprivation or inconsistent sleep schedules can contribute to poor concentration and behavioral difficulties for children. They can also reduce problem-solving abilities.
If you think your child needs more sleep, incrementally adjust your child’s bedtime and begin their nighttime routine 10 or 15 minutes earlier each night until they’re adjusted to a new bedtime.
Reducing screen time will also help create healthy sleep habits. In the digital age, that might seem like a challenge as many children have homework assignments that require computers or tablets. However, the American Board of Pediatrics says that it’s best to limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours a day, especially before bed, to help children get the best sleep. Limiting time with blue-light emitting devices before bed is a good habit for adults, too.
Parents can help their children thrive in school by taking them in for an annual physical exam this season, as well. Fall is a perfect time for children to visit their physicians to make sure they’re in good health and that all vaccinations are up to date. An annual visit to the doctor also gives parents an opportunity to address concerns they may have about their children’s health, and review or update any medical history.
A third step is to encourage healthy eating. One way to do this is to bring your children with you when you go grocery shopping and involve them in making their lunches. These are great ways to have children participate in making healthy, nutritious food choices and learn about what it takes to create a meal.
Parents do a lot to help our children succeed in school, but we shouldn’t forget to take care of ourselves, as well. Setting good examples of healthy habits can encourage children to do the same, like staying active and washing our hands to prevent the spread of germs.
Going back to school can be stressful for families, and as parents, we have the ability to help ease the transition in small but meaningful ways. Getting the proper amount of sleep, scheduling wellness checkups, and eating nutritious food can help get your school year off to a healthy start.
Jinat J Parveen is a certified family physician at EvergreenHealth Primary Care, Mill Creek. Jovita D’Souza is a board-certified family nurse practitioner at EvergreenHealth Primary Care, Mill Creek. EvergreenHealth is based in Kirkland.