Contributed by Chelsea Wicks, MD
As our kids head back to school, we all struggle to get back into the routine. Getting the kids up in the morning, trying to get breakfast in before they leave, making sure they have lunch. It can be very stressful. However, these things are vital to making sure our kids stay healthy and have the opportunity to excel in school.
One relatively easy way to know if your child is getting enough sleep is whether or not you have to wake them up in the morning. If they are able to wake up easily and on their own, they are likely getting enough rest. If it is a battle every morning, it is worth trying to slowly shift the bedtime a little earlier each night. I know this can be difficult with the amount of homework, sports and other activities, but it is crucial that they get caught up on sleep so they can concentrate at school, and for their overall health.
Eating healthy is another key to keeping the brain functioning smoothly. Adolescents and teens are probably the hardest age groups to control as many of them tend to skip breakfast and then may or may not eat lunch, depending on the social situation. Start early in reminding your children as to WHY we eat. We need the food to get vitamins and essential minerals to keep our organs running smoothly, especially the brain. It is important to get at least three meals a day with healthy snacks in between and plenty of fluids, preferably water.
Try to make it as easy as possible for them by having healthy, easy to grab foods, such as pieces of fruit, yogurt or granola bars so they can’t use “it takes too much time” as an excuse not to eat. You may want to help them pack lunches so they don’t have to wait in line at the cafeteria and feel like they’re missing out on their social hour (home packed lunches tend to be healthier anyway!).
Finally, do your best to discourage sugary drinks as this will give them a quick burst of energy but leads to a crash later that interferes with focus.
With how busy life gets, I know these seemingly simple things can be difficult to obtain, but planning ahead and making them priorities are definitely worth it!