It is the time of year when people of all ages are returning to classrooms. They will be exposed to new experiences and ideas but also higher risk of exposure to viruses/illness and stress. Here are some tips for students of all ages to ensure a healthy and successful time in school:
- Vaccinations are the best course for preventing illness. In addition to the vaccines recommended by your doctor, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age.
- Sleep is essential to keep children (and adults) focused throughout the day. Adults need about eight hours of sleep, while young children often need more. It’s important to set a bedtime that ensures everyone gets enough sleep and to keep a consistent schedule.
- To avoid getting sick and to prevent children from bringing germs home, it’s important to teach children to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating.
- A healthy diet can help children grow and learn more effectively, as well as keep everyone’s immune systems primed to fight off illness. Avoid junk food and soft drinks, and consider packing children’s lunches with healthy snacks.
- Going back to school is stressful for both parents and students of all ages; for some children, it may be a new sensation. Help manage stress by talking to children (or encouraging adult students to talk to someone) about anything bothering them and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule. Schoolwork is important, but it is essential for mental health to relax, play, and spend time with family.
- A significant new stress for students and teachers returning to school is the atmosphere of fear that has emerged in the wake of mass shootings at schools and other venues throughout the United States. Simulated active shooter drills have been shown to contribute to trauma rather than relieve fears, and policies of harsher discipline and armed school staff increase the likelihood that people are exposed to violence.
- It is imperative that children feel they can trust the adults in their lives and be connected as a community. An authoritative approach of structure, oversight, consequences, and support can help children learn responsibility for their behavior and how to reconnect with others; as opposed to an authoritarian environment of punishment, control, and containment which hardens a school instead of making it a better place with less violence and fewer problems.