With a new school year dawning in Loudoun County Thursday (Aug. 23), parents and students alike are in a whirl of activity to prepare for academic success.
In the process, health concerns tend to be secondary or not considered at all.
Erin Rovelli, a nurse in the Children’s Emergency Room at Inova Loudoun Hospital, said it’s important for parents to take a moment to plan strategies to make sure students keep their bodies healthy while the focus is on feeding their minds.
Rovelli offers seven tips to remember to make health a priority.
1. Be a bedtime stickler: Adequate sleep is essential for learning and memory. Good sleep can also ward off illness and help kids maintain a healthy weight. How much is enough? Experts say preschoolers should get 11 to 12 hours per night. School-age kids and pre-teens should sleep 10 to 11 hours nightly. And teens should get at least 9 hours .
2. Start the day right: Give your child energy to start their day with a healthy breakfast. Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein (eggs, beans and meat) and dairy products (such as low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt).
3. Keep the good stuff coming: Breakfast is important, but so are the rest of your meals. Pack lunches with variety to keep your child interested in healthy options, such as hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, cheese and nuts. Have your children help pack their lunch – they’ll be more likely to eat what they pick.
4. Get moving: School means a lot of sitting, but physical activity is key for physical and emotional health. Regular exercise can help with concentration and focus in school and lead to better sleep patterns. Exercise can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Encourage your children to find an activity they enjoy. Ideally, help them find a sport or activity that gets their heart rate up for at least 30 minutes.
5. Schedule study time: Kids appreciate the routine of a regular study time built into their day. Some kids do well finishing homework in the afternoon after a snack and some play time; others prefer to wait until after dinner.
6. Motivate and monitor: Help your child succeed at school by encouraging him or her along the way. Get to know your child’s teachers and their expectations. Ask your kids about their day and what schoolwork is on their plate. Give them space to take charge of their own assignments, but make yourself available for any questions or concerns.
7. Schedule a check-up: Annual physicals are important for kids of all ages. These wellness visits typically include monitoring vital signs, vision screenings, vaccination updates, diet and exercise recommendations and general wellness advice for your child.