As the summer season winds down, parents everywhere are getting ready for the start of a new school year. But with the recent pandemic still impacting much of the country, back-to-school preparations are bound to look a bit different this year.
Parents who are at home during the day may continue to rely on virtual learning technology for their kids' education, while others may be preparing to send kids back to school or college. Regardless of which option is right for you, the well-being of your children, teens, and college students is still your number one priority.
To help your family stay safe, healthy, and productive during the upcoming school season and throughout the year, we've put together the following list of tips that includes advice from leading health authorities.
GENERAL WELLNESS TIPS
- Teach kids about the importance of handwashing. According to the CDC, frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family. Make sure kids know to wash their hands often throughout the day, for at least 20 seconds at a time. Using soap and clean water, they should lather and scrub thoroughly before rinsing off their hands. Here's why. If soap and water are not readily available, CDC experts recommend an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Make sure they get a good night’s sleep. A new school year means added challenges for kids and teens. To support healthy immune function and overall wellness throughout the year, experts recommend 9 to 11 hours nightly for school-age children (6-13 years) and 8 to 11 hours for teenagers (14-17 years). If your kids and teens have troubling settling in at night, a warm bath or shower before bed can help, along with limiting nighttime screen time and going to bed at the same time each night.
KIDS STAYING AT HOME THIS SCHOOL YEAR/SEMESTER?
- Set up a designated space for learning. Rather than using the kitchen table, living room, or another high-traffic area in your home, consider setting aside a place that is just for school work. This will make it easier for kids to transition from everyday activities to "getting down to business" when it's time to learn and study.
- Stick to a steady routine. Just like they would at school, it's important for kids and teens to have a structured learning schedule while conducting lessons at home, along with built-in breaks for lunch, exercise, and rest. Remember, too, that your schedule doesn't have to look like everyone else's and should be tailored to your child's unique habits and learning style. Are they an early riser that likes to get right to work each day? Or do they prefer sleeping in and easing into their lessons? There is no right or wrong when it comes to building a positive learning schedule.
- Take advantage of free online resources. Most parents were never meant to be teachers, and that's okay! From math and science to reading and writing, the internet offers numerous free tools and resources from education professionals to help parents connect with, teach, and even test kids of all ages. Along with academic resources, parents can take advantage of online art classes, music instruction, dance tutorials, exercise videos, and more. Also, be sure to check out your favorite museums, zoos, aquariums, and national parks, many of which provide engaging virtual tours.
KIDS HEADING BACK TO SCHOOL OR CAMPUS?
- Talk to them about essential safety precautions. Rather than just handing your kids a mask and some hand sanitizer on their way out the door, take the time to have a conversation with your children and teens about how infection is spread, why good hygiene and safe distancing are important outside of home, and what masks do and how to wear them properly. Understanding the science behind staying healthy is often the first step toward adopting lifelong healthy habits.
- Make wearing masks fun. From bright colors and prints to beloved superheroes and TV and movie characters, retailers have jumped at the opportunity to create masks for every style and mood—and kids and teens especially love them! While you still have time, head to their favorite stores or browse online for masks that are fun to wear and will help your kids show off their unique personalities.
A LITTLE PREPARATION GOES A LONG WAY
Small changes to their everyday routine can make a big difference when it comes to supporting the health and well-being of your school-age kids. Whatever "back to school" looks like in your house, be sure to follow these simple tips to keep them safe and healthy as they start the new academic year.