It’s September. The time for vacations to be over and we head back to and kids head back to school. Well, hopefully they are heading back to school. If your children are heading back to the classrooms, you’ll find there are a lot of fears floating around and conflicting do’s and don’ts.
Relax, we’ve compiled a list of tips to keep your child healthy and happy during this strange time. And if they are healthy and happy, you will be too.
- Help Keep Your Whole Family’s Immune System Functioning Well
It is important to keep your child’s body healthy, which in turn keeps their immune systems working properly. Making sure they get plenty of sleep, maintain a healthy, nutritious diet, manage stress, exercise, laughs and play, and emphasizing hand washing can help reduce your child's risk of getting colds, the flu, and other infections or viruses.
But kids will be kids and even with preventative measures, most children can get up to eight colds per year. This is due to their immune systems ongoing development.
More and more parents are giving kids supplements like elderberry, garlic (allicin) or additional doses of vitamins such as vitamin C. Consult with your child's doctor or a licensed naturopath before giving them supplements of any kind. Always due your research. Of course it is preferred kids stay healthy with a varied diet and that they get vitamins from eating the right food.
Here are ways to keep their immune system boosted and healthy:
- EAT A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein help to support the body’s immune system.
- SLEEP: Losing sleep can increase inflammation in the body and interfere with its ability to keep itself healthy. “Sleep is crucial to immune system function,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “People underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep.”
- EXERCISE: Studies have shown as little as 30 minutes of moderate, regular exercise boosts your immune system function.
- MANAGE STRESS: Stress can lower the number and effectiveness of natural infection-fighting cells. Try to manage your child’s stress and do what you can to keep your own under control, too.
- AVOID BAD HABITS: Bad habits such as smoking, lack of sleep, poor diet, and, lack of exercise have a negative effect on the body’s immune system.
- Teach Proper Hand Washing
Bet you didn’t know a little thing like hand washing is one of the most important way to prevent spreading illnesses, especially in the classroom.
Kids come in contact with germs all the time and they can easily spread those germs, especially if they rub their eyes or scratch their nose or play with other children.
Once they are sick, it’s only a matter of time until everyone in the family is sick. But frequent hand washing can help slow this spread of germs.
So teach your kids how to wash their hands properly, especially after blowing their nose, using the bathroom, and of course before eating.
3) Teach Healthy Habits
Teaching your child to know the importance of healthy habits to prevent colds, flu, and other infections is super important. Healthy habits include not to touching eyes or sharing cups and utensils with friends.
Whether kids are attending school in person, learning online, or a hybrid, it's still important that they get a refresher on healthy habits like washing their hands frequently and avoiding touching their face.
Some other things kids need to be reminded of is using tissues when they sniffle or sneeze, letting parents know when they don't feel well, and avoiding close contact with their friends at school.
Preventative behaviors like these can be very effective in reducing or slowing the spread of most infectious diseases, including stomach bugs.
4) Watch For Signs Of Anxiety And Stress
Going back to school can create stress for your child and for you. Along with homework, exams, social pressures and more, kids face stressful situations every day.
Research shows that stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on kids' health, just like it can on the health of adults. This is why it’s important to learn how to spot symptoms of stress and anxiety in your child and and find ways to manage them.
This extremely important now as kids try to navigate a school year that looks nothing like what they're used to or what they expected.
One way to help kids deal with stress and anxiety is to help them learn the difference between what they can control - like what to wear, who they spend their time with and how they spend their free time - and what they can’t control - other people, rules, etc.
Another way is to help them identify what helps them not feel stressed out or filled with anxiety. This may mean spending time in nature, reading a book, writing in a journal, playing a game or just going for a walk or bike ride. Maybe it’s just spending quality time with you or family.
Each child is different, so make sure you personalize it for each individual. What may work for your daughter, may not work for your son, etc. If your child seems more affected than what you think is normal, contact your child’s doctor. Their doctor can give you other suggestions on how to tackle these issues.
5.) Establish Good Sleep Hygiene
Time for Bed! Kids hate to hear those three little words, I know I did as a kid, but getting enough sleep is a crucial part in keeping your immune system and health at top operating condition.
Studies show that missing sleep can impact kids (and adults) in a number of ways. When you don’t get enough sleep, poor concentration, depression, obesity, suicidal ideation and injuries can occur.
Sleep can also play a role role in how well children do in school. Research is now showing children are sleeping less than they did years ago.
Getting enough sleep helps to prepare children for stress they may experience during their day, especially when they are at school. Establishing a set bed time and sticking to it no matter how much they protest, is essential.
6.) Breakfast - The Most Important Meal
Yep, breakfast is the most important meal for kids in school. In fact, one study found that kids who ate breakfast regularly, take in the appropriate amounts of nutrients while eating less fat and cholesterol. In fact, vitamins such as iron, B vitamins and vitamin D are approximately 20% to 60% higher in those who eat breakfast regularly versus those who don’t.
Researcher have also found positive effects on memory and attention are also related to eating a good breakfast.
Here are some tips for a good breakfast:
- Make sure you’ve stocked up on healthy options such as fruits, peanut or almond butter, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and whole grain cereals. Make sure you choose items that are low in sugars.
- Wake everyone up 15 minutes earlier to ensure there is time for a good breakfast
- Get the kids involved in planning and preparing their own breakfast.
- For those morning where you can’t get everyone out of bed in time, have a few grab-and-go choices available. Fresh fruit, yogurt, trail mix, and nuts are some good choices.
7.) Kids Sick? Keep Them Home From School
It’s always a good idea to keep your kids home from if they aren’t feeling well, especially in this day and age. Keeping them home is not only good for them so they can get better, but also for others so they don’t catch what your child has.
As a general rule of thumb, keep them home if they:
- Are running a fever
- Have a cough
- Vomit more than once
- Have frequent bouts of diarrhea
- Complain of body aches
- Are shaking, shivering or have chills
- Aren’t able to eat and drink
- Can’t concentrate due to not feeling well
When you are in doubt, it’s better to keep them home and consult with your doctor.
8.) Be Like Dracula!
If your child happens to start coughing and sneezing, there is a technique to teach them to avoid them coughing or sneezing into their hands.
Show them how to cough and sneeze into their bent elbow
which is a technique that looks a lot like Dracula pulling his cape across his face. This makes it fun and easy to remember, especially when Halloween is around the corner.
This will keep their hands free from germs and less likely to be spread to others.
9. Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Never has anything been more true. Research shows laughter may actually boost your immune system, increases “feel good” hormones and reduces levels of stress hormones.
Helping kids laugh, enjoy life and laugh off challenging times is extremely beneficial.
10. Go Play Outside
These days kids plop themselves in front of the television, gameboy or phone. Getting them up and outside in nature is an excellent way to increase physical activity, get fresh air and have fun. Why not join your kids? Not only will you help yourself, but you’ll also show your kids how healthy it can be to be outside.