Back to school doesn’t have to be so stressful. In fact, the return to school is a perfect moment for families to establish healthy habits at home that set our children up for success all year long. Here are a few tips families can use to prepare children for success before the school year begins.
Tip #1: Ease into school routines early.
Sit down together to discuss your family’s upcoming schedule and priorities—that’s everything from homework time to carpools to who showers when. And, of course, the big one: Bedtime. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children ages 6-12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep nightly to thrive, and teens need 8 to 10 hours. You can help your kids adjust their internal clocks by implementing a school-year sleep schedule during the last weeks of summer.
Tip #2: Anticipate change together.
Help your children manage transition time by talking about what to expect in the new school year. These conversations can be especially helpful for younger kids, children changing schools, and those who struggle with anxiety. Try mapping out a school day together. Talk about will happen in the morning, at lunch, and after school. With younger kids, it can help to draw pictures of their classroom, bus stop, etc., so they can visualize a positive school experience.
Tip #3: Talk about risky behaviors to avoid.
Your middle and high schoolers may encounter new risks this year. Get ahead of those moments by talking about the negative consequences of behaviors like tobacco use, drug use, and bullying. This is a chance to outline your own values, provide your children with information to support healthy decisions, and establish an open channel of conversation. Yolonda Richardson, President and CEO from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids shares, “Even if you don’t think your kids are vaping, they’re very likely to be exposed to these highly addictive nicotine products. Early conversations from parents can have a huge impact in helping kids make healthy, informed decisions. Together – with schools, elected officials, and healthcare providers – we have the power to end the youth e-cigarette crisis.”
Tip #4: New (school) year, new opportunity… for health!
Think of the start of school as the reset button on health. Now is the time to get caught up on immunizations, physicals, and dental care. It’s also a great time to set fresh resolutions for exercise, nutrition, screen time, and more.
You aren’t alone in protecting your children’s health and well-being. Visit or call your child’s school to get the contact info for counselors, nurses, and other key staff. Speak to your local PTA to learn about initiatives underway to support students’ physical and mental health. And visit National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles website for free resources on many health-related topics.