Start the School Year Off Right by Maintaining and Increasing Healthy Habits at Home
As the school year begins, the Ohio Psychological Association encourages parents to focus on practicing healthy stress management habits at home, as stress can increase during the school year.
According to psychological research, family plays a key role in modeling healthy behaviors that lead to lifelong wellness and good health. Children who learn and practice healthy habits at home, such as regular physical activity and a balanced diet, have a toolbox of stress management techniques they can use in the school year.
“Many people don’t realize that they are already practicing healthy stress management techniques at home, such as getting enough sleep and openly communicating as a family. It’s important to talk with your child or teen about the value of continuing these healthy habits throughout the school year,” said Cleveland psychologist Dr. Kathy Ashton. “When stress occurs, a foundation of healthy habits makes difficult life situations easier to navigate. This school year, make a point of strongly supporting these healthy habits in your children’s routines, and trying out new healthy habits as a family.”
OPA recommends practicing the following healthy habits before and during the school year:
- Get moving! — Exercise is a natural stress reliever and increases the production of good neurotransmitters called endorphins. Set the example that physical fitness is both fun and healthy. Modeling healthy behaviors by exercising yourself will help your children see physical activity as an important part of a daily routine. Have your children devote at least an hour per day to physical fitness and reinforce to them that everyone needs exercise to keep healthy.
- Take a balanced approach to food –Whether it’s the school cafeteria, shopping mall, or a birthday party, your kids will be exposed to tempting sweets and fattening foods. Use home meal time and family outings as opportunities to teach your kids how to make balanced and healthy food choices.
- Set children on a consistent sleep schedule — According to the Mayo Clinic, school-aged children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep can negatively affect children’s mood and behavior and their physical health. While parents may burn the candle at both ends because of work and family demands, take time to unwind as a family before your children’s bedtime.
- Don’t let your children become overwhelmed with extracurricular activities — Sometimes children, as well as parents, can become overwhelmed and overstressed from over committing themselves. Be mindful of your children’s after school activities and notice how these affect their schoolwork and relationships with family, friends and teachers. Try to properly balance their after-school activities and your own commitments to reduce stress.
- Communicate regularly with your kids – Talking to friends and family about problems is a healthy stress management tool. Children can manage stress in the same way, and having open dialogue with your children is important to a healthy home. Try to make the dinner table an “electronics free zone”, and engage in conversations with your children about their day.