It’s that time again, with summer’s days dwindling and back-to-school items stocked on the shelves. As an educator, keep in mind the health of you and your students as you plan for the upcoming school year. As a parent, you prepare for fall clothes and school supplies to send your child into the new school year prepared, it’s vital to remember your child’s health as part of the complete package, along with faith and education.
Not only should parents schedule the child for their annual physical before the start of the new school year, it is important to remember that health education is equally taught and implemented at home, and should start before sending your kids out to classrooms full of germs. And for teachers and faculty, you know how often you can get sick or have children out with illness during the fall and winter months. So for both parents and educators, here are some health tips to start out the new school year:
Parents and Teachers: Stay positive. When cold and flu season is upon us, so are shorter days, cooler weather, and the potential onset of the winter blues and cabin fever. A good attitude is important for mental and physical health. A gratitude journal can be a great idea, and keep godliness in mind as well as thankfulness for the blessings around you. This is a practice that teachers, parents, and children can benefit from. From wnycatholicschools.org: “To stay positive, try keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a place where you and your family can write down five things each day that you’re grateful for that day. This is great to keep students of Christian schools humble and thankful during the holidays as well!”
Parents and Teachers: Hand-washing is vital. Talk about it whenever you can. Teach younger children to sing “The Happy Birthday Song” while they wash their hands to ensure they wash for an adequate amount of time. Teach good technique. This is important to encourage at home as often as it is encouraged at school. Education on germs and the spread of disease should happen in both places as well.
Parents: When conducting an annual physical for your child, make sure that questions about vaccines and immunizations are answered, and scheduled to take place if needed. Ask about emotional or physical warning signs that you should be monitoring for in your children. Make sure that you understand your child’s BMI in conjunction with weight and age, and if your kids fall into a healthy spectrum there. If you child is an athlete, make sure the pediatrician knows, and that you have all appropriate care/questions/protective gear covered in the checkup.
Teachers: Keep a baseline healthfulness in your curriculum. Can you incorporate activity into your classroom activities, even if it’s just kids standing up from their desks while answering questions? Perhaps a 2 minute yoga break to keep minds and bodies active? One quick relay race to perk up student energy? The more you can keep them active, the healthier their minds and bodies can be. If your budget does not include room for items like tissues, sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer, you may want to consider petitioning parents at the start of the school year for small objects to help keep the entire class healthy.
Parents: Make sure your kids eat nutritionally. A healthy immune system comes from a consistent diet of the right nutrients and vitamins. If you are concerned your child is lacking adequate vitamin intake, consider chewable (or even gummy) vitamins that kids may view as a treat.
Teachers: Ensure your classroom stays clean. Desks, door handles, and other heavily-touched surfaces need extra care from you or janitorial staff. Eat nutritionally and consume plenty of vitamins yourself, so as to not take cold and flu germs home with you. Educators are a role model for our children not just in moral and intellectual ways, so make sure that your habits match those you wish to see in the children in your classroom.
Parents and Teachers: Children should not be in the classroom while ill. Communicable diseases spread fast in closed environments, and a compromised immune system from a common cold might not seem like a big deal, but could mean a child contracts something even more serious if exposed. Parents need to manage care and stay-at-home options for children and not send them to school ill. Teachers need to send children home, or to the nurse’s office, at the first signs of illness, and make sure that parents know the rules of your classroom are firm.
Parents: Children need plenty of sleep. Ensure all throughout the school year that your children get enough rest. They need this for brain development and physical growth as well as a healthy immune system. The SleepFoundation.org lists child needs as:
|Age||Recommended||May be appropriate|
|Toddlers 1-2 years||11 to 14 hours||9 to 10 hours/15 to 16 hours|
|Preschoolers 3-5 years||10 to 13 hours||8 to 9 hours/14 hours|
|School-aged Children 6-13 years||9 to 11 hours||7 to 8 hours/12 hours|
|Teenagers 14-17 years||8 to 10 hours||7 hours/11 hours|
Teachers: You need plenty of rest as well. Stress and sleeplessness can wear you down emotionally and spiritually and make you more vulnerable to illness yourself. Take care of your physical needs of sleep and rest.