Time flies when you’re having fun, so it’s no wonder summer seems to go by in the blink of an eye. Now it’s time to get into super mom or dad mode as the new school year arrives. It can feel a bit overwhelming but it offers a fresh opportunity to create healthy habits for the whole family. Healthy doesn’t mean just avoiding a seasonal cold or flu but creating a balanced way of life for the mind and body.

So just how do you keep everybody healthy as the school season kicks off? We’ve got five family-friendly back-to-school tips to get you started.   

1. Get the Jump on Germs

One of the best places to start with healthy habits is the simplest—stop spreading those germs. From the monkey bars to the classroom, kids are constantly coming into contact with germs, so handwashing is a must. Teaching your kids some easy ways to stop germs from spreading means less chance of getting sick and missing out on school or other fun activities. So when should kids be giving their hands a good scrub?

  • Before eating or handling food;
  • After using the washroom;
  • After playing outdoors, in the sand, or water;
  • After sneezing or coughing into their hands or blowing their nose;
  • After attending school or daycare or spending time in public places.

Also, encourage other good habits to stop those pesky germs like not rubbing their eyes and avoiding the sharing of straws.

2. Set a Sleep Schedule 

Having trouble getting your kids to catch those z’s every night? One of the best ways to make sure everyone is getting enough rest when going back to school is to create a routine and stick to it throughout the school year. This could be as simple as reading a book or taking a bath before bedtime. Younger children should get anywhere from 10 to 12 hours of sleep, while adolescents and adults need at least eight to 10. Studies have shown that there’s a connection between kids’ ability to focus at school and the amount of sleep they’re getting—so get those bedtimes on track. 

3. Make Mental Health a Priority

A new school year can bring on anxiety and stress for both you and your kids, so looking out for your kids’ mental health needs to be a priority. For kids, there’s homework, tests and extracurricular activities keeping them busy around the clock—not to mention social stresses and the pressure of making friends. Be on the lookout for symptoms of stress or anxiety in your kids that could include:

  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Behavioural changes, like moodiness, aggression, a short temper or clinginess;
  • Withdrawing from family or friends;
  • Refusal to go to school;
  • Getting into trouble at school;
  • Change in appetite;
  • Complaints of stomach aches or headaches;
  • Sleep problems or nightmares.

Now that you know the signs, what should you do if you see them? Provide encouragement and offer support. If you have questions or feel like you can’t manage it on your own, reach out to a mental health professional—they’re covered under most health plans. And don’t forget about your own mental health. Take time to check-in with yourself and your well-being as the hectic school year takes off.   

4. Dedicate to a Balanced Diet

A healthy start all begins with a before school breakfast—the most important meal of the day. Starting with a good breakfast is essential for brain function and gives kids the energy they need. Beyond breakfast, keep up the nutrition for kids by sending them to school with plenty of healthy snacks and fun lunches. Some of the best foods for brain function are:

  • Green leafy veggies;
  • Yogurt;
  • Eggs;
  • Berries;
  • Oatmeal;
  • Apples and plums.

At home, try to sit down and enjoy at least one meal together per day without distractions. These offer a great opportunity to check in with your family and spend some quality time together without texts, tweets or T.V.

5. Get Active

Being active is not only fun, it improves both mental and physical well-being for the whole family. Studies show that at least an hour of physical activity for kids a day builds self-esteem, reduces stress and anxiety, and develops skills like teamwork and leadership. Setting a good example as parents makes it easier for kids to develop active habits. So why not do it together? Go for a walk or bike ride after school or dinner, or plan a family outing on the weekend for some time away from the T.V. You’ll get much-needed exercise and valuable time together.

The new school year brings a chance to see your kids grow, develop and become even more independent. Follow these back-to-school tips and you’ll see the benefits in your kids and yourself. By starting a healthy lifestyle at a young age, you’re creating good habits that will last a lifetime and who doesn’t want that?!