Back to school season is both an exciting and stressful time of year filled with new experiences. With this school year, we know that stress is probably a lot higher than normal for parents, students, and school staff members. We are all doing the best we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 while doing what is best for our families, on top of the usual pressure and worries about your child’s academic performance and social relationships with other students and staff.

While our own staff members are not claiming to have all the answers for this back to school season, we do have some tips that we think will help you feel more in control of your family’s wellness. These tips, although they can’t necessarily give you the ability to keep an eye on your kids at school, can set your family up for success through knowledge and preparation. Here are some simple steps you can take and things to monitor to help your kids create healthy school habits.

Tip #1: Get Back on a Regular Sleep Schedule

If this longer than usual break from school has meant your child has been going to bed late or sleeping in, it’s time to curve the habit. It can be a challenge to get your kids back on schedule for an early day at school, so we recommend slowly easing them back into the swing of things by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day if possible until they are getting to bed at a good time. We know some students are not quite back to a steady schedule, with some doing half days and others rotating what days they need to be in school, but it’s always a good idea to create your own sense of stability regardless. If your kids don’t have class every morning, make the beginning of their day a homework, study, or exercise period at home. Every day they are not in a class, they should still wake up as if they were so that the habit becomes a routine they can stick to. Any change in bedtime or wake up time will make it difficult to wake up and get going on the days they do need to be in class.

You probably hear this one a lot, but it really is important to stop screen time before bed. We recommend switching off electronics, including computers, phones, tablets, and TVs, approximately an hour before bed because these devices interfere with our brains’ ability to feel tired. Remember a consistent sleep schedule is great for both mental wellbeing and physical health.  It is even better if you can remove these electronics from bedrooms entirely to create the divide between awake time and bedtime. Instead, make going to bed a fun and relaxing ritual for your family. Encourage peaceful activities like reading to promote a quiet, wind-down time so your family can fall asleep faster and easier.

Tip #2: Encourage Nutritional Health

A balanced diet is so important to brain function and energy that your kids need throughout the school day. Try to have a nutritional breakfast, even if it is small and quick, with your family every morning to start the day right and avoid brain fog. The same goes for making healthy lunches and prepping an after-school snack. Take your kids to the grocery stores with you so that they feel involved in the food preparation process instead of being forced to eat something they have not picked. We don’t mean to say that you should let your kids pick a bunch of unhealthy snacks or meals while shopping. Instead, we recommend giving them the choice between two or three healthier options so that they feel more control and responsibility when it comes to food. The actual preparation of meals and snacks is another great time to involve the whole family so that the feeling of responsibility will encourage them to actually want to eat what they themselves made. It is extremely important that you act as a role model for a healthy diet in the sense that you demonstrate to your kids how healthy food is important. Show them that eating nutritional food does not need to be a boring, time-consuming, or negative experience. Illustrate that a healthy diet is a balanced diet and having a few “unhealthy” snacks or meals are not punishable by any means! Try not to use food as a reward system or as a means to gain/lose weight and instead focus on it as positive fuel for your kid’s health.

Tip #3: Manage Stress

Stress can sometimes be unavoidable. This is unfortunately true every school year but is especially true with this school year. Now more than ever, it is so important to teach your family healthy stress management tools and coping strategies. Avoid the headache of your kids leaving work to the last minute or cramming for an exam by creating a structured routine and getting involved with schoolwork or homework when possible. Talk to your kids about how they are feeling about the new school year and encourage them to discuss any worries or concerns with you. You can ask them about their likes and dislikes, strengths or any areas they think they are struggling with, or even just how they are getting along with their classmates. Anything can start the conversation and help you become an active partner in their education and school life. We encourage you to be mindful of specific behaviour changes that might indicate stress and to remind your family that stress is normal and okay as long as we know how to manage it.

We hope that this blog helps some of you feel at least a little more prepared and in control of your family’s health this back-to-school season! Remember to take care of your own health and wellness as well – if you’ve never been one to prioritize self-care, now is certainly the time to give it a try. Give us a call at (519)880-1733 with any questions you have about your family’s wellness – we will do the best we can to provide you with resources so that you feel armed with knowledge and support. Contact our team and we’d be happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!