Pencils, binders, notebooks—these school supplies are essential to help your kid succeed in the classroom. But markers and colored pencils aren’t the only things that belong on your back-to-school prep list. Parents should start thinking about what kids need from a wellness standpoint. Sleep schedules and healthy foods deserve a spot on that list, too.
And don’t forget about your own needs! Parents have to prepare themselves for the return to school, as well. Check out these tips for boosting focus, strengthening immunity and relieving stress heading into the new school year.
Tips to help kids focus during class
Many children struggle with transitioning from summer vacation back to the classroom. It’s hard to sit in a chair and listen to teachers all day when they just spent months playing with their friends! Work these ideas into your child’s school routine to boost learning and concentration.
- Start the day with breakfast: Make time for a healthy breakfast before your kids rush to catch the school bus. Breakfast provides the fuel kids need to focus and retain new information. Skip the donuts and chocolate pancakes, since these breakfast foods will spike (and later crash) their blood sugar. Sugar crashes cause irritability and make it harder to concentrate. Opt for protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, as they’ll give kids sustained energy.
- Play outside in nature: Kids can’t sit still for too long. They need scheduled breaks throughout the day to burn off pent-up energy, clear their heads and buckle down with their studies. Exercise increases the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that motivates kids to focus on a single task. Exercise also releases serotonin, which improves their mood and banishes distracting thoughts. Encourage your child to play outside after school and give them movement breaks during homework time.
- Stick to a regular bed time: No more staying up late! Younger kids need 10 hours of sleep to perform their best at school. Getting plenty of rest helps kids stay alert during class, so they’ll be able to focus on what their teachers have to say. Set their bed time a few minutes earlier each night leading up to school so your child is well-adjusted before the first day.
Foods that battle the spread of germs
Once school starts, your child will interact with more of their peers than usual. The classroom is a hotbed for germs, which increases their chances of coming home with a cold. Strong immune systems will keep the whole family healthy so everyone has fewer sick days at work and school. Try these tasty options for building a strong immune system.
- Yogurt: Boost immunity by serving up a scoop of Greek yogurt. It’s packed with probiotics that populate the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Since many immune cells reside in the gastrointestinal tract, a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system. Greek yogurt is also fortified with vitamin D, which helps your body fight off pathogens. Try plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt topped with berries and honey for a touch of sweetness.
- Citrus fruits: The vitamin C in citrus fruits can help you get over a cold much faster. However, the vitamin’s healing powers are much more effective when eaten on a daily basis. This immune-boosting nutrient produces white blood cells that defend the body against viral infections. Toss an orange into your kid’s lunch box, then peel a clementine for an after-school snack. A few pieces of fruit each day can stop you all from getting sick in the first place!
How to unwind from a hectic schedule
The new school year can put a lot of stress on parents. They have to buy school supplies, complete enrollment forms and coordinate carpooling, all on top of their existing work schedules. These little self-care moments can help keep your stress levels under control.
- Practice mindfulness: It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos—leave work, pick up the kids, bring them to soccer practice, make dinner. Mindfulness helps you live in the present moment, dispelling worrisome thoughts about the past and future. Whether you’re commuting or in line at the store, take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to simply be.
- Take a calming supplement: A daily calming supplement can improve your body’s physiological response to stress. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, eleuthero root and ginseng boost resilience by lowering a stress hormone called cortisol. Lower cortisol levels promote a brighter, more relaxed mood and greater sense of wellbeing.
Kids and their parents shouldn’t have to dread the return to school. Healthy foods, habits and activities can ease the transition. Anticipate your whole family’s needs to help kids and yourself tackle the upcoming school year.