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.
- Student backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20% of a student’s body weight, and should be adjusted properly to the bottom of the pack so it sits at their waist. Encourage students to use both shoulder straps; slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and hurt their back.
- If your student has a chronic health condition, ensure that the school nursing staff is aware and carefully go over any emergency plans with your child and school health personnel.
Students of different ages may have different experiences in school, but these tips are a good foundation to staying healthy while learning and growing. If you are having trouble accessing vaccination or other services, NeedyMeds has a database of over 18,000 free, low-cost, and sliding-scale clinics all over the country.
The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be of help for prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter medications if written as a prescription. The free discount card is also available as an iPhone and Android app. For children affected by a chronic health condition, there may be academic scholarships or extracurricular camps and retreats available.
For more information, visit the website or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897 Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm Eastern Time.