The 2020-2021 school year is promising to be a different type of school year. With many parents left in limbo over whether or not their child's school will be open and whether or not they will choose to send their child if it is open, there is much that feels up in the air.
Regardless, summer is still coming to a close and a new season of life begins with the start of a new school year. Like many parents, you feel your child’s academic success is of paramount importance. Preparing your family for this different type of school year can set the stage for a successful academic year.
The first day of school can be stressful for both kids and parents. Fortunately, with some planning, many stressors can be avoided.
Prior to the first day, contact the school about any special needs your child may require especially if you're planning to do remote learning. If your child will be attending a new school in person, see if you are able to schedule a time to visit the school and maybe even meet the teachers. If your school offers an orientation or open house, try to attend with your children to get to know other parents, students, and the teachers. If these options aren't available, check to see if the school is offering virtual meetings for your child to meet their teacher.
Request a school- or classroom-supplies list and schedule a convenient time to go shopping in the weeks before school begins. It is also helpful to begin going to bed and getting up on the school schedule ahead of time to reduce the chances of oversleeping once school actually starts. If you've chosen to do remote learning, figure out a way that will still mark the beginning of the school year for your child whether that's still taking first day of school photos outside the front door or making a special breakfast.
In addition to these preparatory steps, there are things we can do as parents to help our kids throughout the school year as well, including caring for their physical health. A healthy physical body lays the foundation for peak academic performance.
Many children consume nearly half of their daily calories at school. Teaching kids how to make healthy choices at home will help them make better choices at school, too. If you will be taking advantage of remote learning during this year, you can help your child by building food habits and choices that will set them up for success.
If your child will be going to school in person, take a look at your school’s cafeteria menu. Talk to your children about the options available at mealtime. If there are meals your child will not eat, plan ahead and pack a lunch that day. Teach your children to avoid empty calories from added sugars and fats in processed foods and beverages. Instead, encourage them to choose the best option including vegetables and fruits every day. Remember to be a good role model at home, eating vegetables and fruits yourself!
Breakfast is important whether kids eat it at home or at school. Studies show that eating breakfast helps kids perform better in school. After eating a nutritious breakfast, kids are better able to concentrate and have more energy for classes.
Just as breakfast is important for morning concentration, lunch is key in order to keep your child going strong all afternoon. At many schools, the majority of kids eat the school-provided lunch. This can make it difficult for some children to feel like they fit in if they pack a lunch. Help your child have fun and enjoy a packed lunch. Create your own “lunchable” or bento box style lunch using little containers or a divided lunch box.
Many kids participate in after-school activities, including sports. Power your child’s play with healthy snacks such as nut butter and apple slices, or hummus and vegetable sticks.
Physical Activity at School
While many schools have reduced the time allotted for physical education and recess, physical activity is still important for healthy kids. Including physical activity in your daily routine helps children maintain a healthy body weight without focusing on exercise as a weight loss tool. Regular physical activity also enhances brain function.
Find ways to keep your children moving regularly. Let them explore different activities that help develop their skills and encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy.
Sleep is an important part of school success. Just as you can’t perform your best at work when you are sleep deprived, your child will struggle to perform at their best if they aren’t getting adequate sleep. Most children need between 8-10 hours of sleep every night.
It helps to set a sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at approximately the same time every day, even on the weekends. This can be challenging, but when children are young this routine can significantly improve behavior. Other things to include in the bedtime routine are avoiding large meals, caffeine, physical activity, and screens (TV, computer, tablet, phone, etc.) in the few hours before bed.
Just like adults, children have multiple dimensions of health including physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Use these tips to create an environment where your children can thrive physically and mentally. Taking time each day to pray with your children and talk with them about their day, their challenges, accomplishments, goals, and barriers, sets the stage for them to be spiritually and emotionally healthy as well.