It’s every parent’s favorite time of year (even if it can be a little stressful getting here): back to school! As much as we all enjoy those lazy, fun-filled summer months, there’s no denying the relief we feel when our children’s lives regain the structure and predictability of the school year.
Among the parts of life that are more predictable once the school year begins is your kids’ general wellness. You’re back on a schedule, so your family can get back in a proper sleep routine. A schedule means you’ll also be able to keep on top of medications and vitamins more regularly – though you’ll want to make it as easy as possible on yourself. Finally, your child(ren) will be exposed to new germs and might end up with that dreaded back-to-school cold.
But the nice thing about predictability is that you can plan ahead for it! We’re here to help.
Get that sleep schedule in check
We’ve talked about the importance of sleep before, but let’s talk specifically about your kids’ sleep. The benefits of sleep we’ve discussed in the past apply to them too, but there’s more to consider.
Sleep is important to proper development as well as some pretty important things that can impact your kids’ education, including:
- Alertness and attention
- Cognitive performance (which is why all-nighters before an exam are not the way to go)
- Vocabulary acquisition
- Mental health
So, how do you help encourage better sleep as the new school year gets underway? The most important thing is to establish a consistent routine.
A good sleep routine for kids and teens includes:
- Turning off all screens at least 30-60 minutes before bed
- Creating a dark and quiet sleep space (consider ear plugs and/or sleep masks for teens who may need some extra help blocking out the stimulation of their rooms. WARNING: Use by children should be closely supervised by adults.)
- Maintaining a regular bedtime
If your child(ren)’s school year hasn’t started yet, you can start shifting toward a routine now to maximize its impact once that school bell rings!
You may also want to keep your home cooler at night (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended), limit food and beverages too close to bedtime, and help your child(ren) transition to bedtime with calming “wind-down” activities like reading or connecting as a family.
Finally, try to keep sleep schedules consistent even on the weekends. Your kids might want to sleep in (especially teens!), but a drastic shift one or two days a week can make it harder to stay on track on school days.
Keep track of medications and vitamins
Speaking of schedules, it’s helpful (and sometimes even necessary) to take prescription medications around the same time each day. And many vitamins are most effective when taken at a consistent time or are spaced out from other vitamins. The use of medications or vitamins needs to be approved or consulted with a physician.
In the chaos of school mornings – especially at the beginning of the year – it can be easy to miss medications or to not even remember if they’ve been taken yet. It can get even trickier for pills that need to be taken in the evening. What if your teen has a sports practice or game, rehearsal, or study group right when they should be taking medication? How can you be sure their vitamins are safe in the black hole that is their backpack?
That’s where pill organizers can help.
- Keep vitamins secure and separated in even the most cramped of sports bags with a vitamin organizer.
- Store a week’s or day’s worth of morning and evening pills in a travel-friendly a.m./p.m. pill planner with a case.
- Make sure your child’s medication is never lost by securing it to their keys.
- Customize your medication storage needs with pill pouches, putting exactly which pills are needed in these properly sized baggies.
Even if you’re the one distributing the medication each day, you can keep it neatly organized and sorted at home and see at a glance if you missed a dose.
You have plenty to keep track of already; you might as well make the daily tasks as easy to keep track of as possible. Doing so will also ensure you don’t miss the important things when the unexpected (but not altogether surprising) happens – like when your kids bring germs home from school.
Protect against – and prepare for – germs
Have you ever noticed that your kids seem to get sick more often in the Fall, once they return to school after summer vacation? It’s no coincidence. Bringing people together into an enclosed space – like a classroom – exposes them to any bacteria or viruses someone may bring in from their home (whether they realize it or not).
Some of the most typical include colds, stomach bugs, pink eye, and strep throat – not exactly what you want coming into your house!
There are some common precautions to take to minimize your child(ren)’s risk of catching the back-to-school cold (or worse):
- Encourage regular hand-washing throughout the day, especially after eating, using the restroom, or touching high-traffic surfaces.
- Teach your child to cough and sneeze into their elbow (the “vampire cough”) or a tissue to help contain germs.
- Keep any face masks clean (mask liners can help in between washes).
- Ensure your child maintains a healthy diet with plenty of nutritious options.
- Keep your child home if they’re sick to help prevent spreading illness to other families.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep! In addition to all of the benefits of sleep we mentioned above, proper rest also produces proteins that can help fight infection.
Back-to-school is an exciting and busy time of year, and there are many moving parts to keep track of. Help keep your family healthy by thinking ahead to what’s most predictable and taking steps to prevent whatever issues and illnesses you can. Make sure your family gets enough sleep, use handy tools to keep track of medications, and take steps to protect against new germs.
Most of all, have a great school year!
Sleep Foundation: Children and Sleep
VeryWell Family: Child Bedtime Routine Dos and Don’ts
Sleep Foundation: The Best Temperature for Sleep
Healthline: When Is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?
Children’s Health: Preventing back-to-school sickness
Riverside Medical Clinic: Ten Tips to Avoid All Those Back-to-School Germs