Nicole Greene, Acting Director, Office on Women’s Health shared that back-to-school time is here! A new school year is a fresh start for our kids. Maybe yours are finishing up their summer reading lists, practicing for a new sports season, or picking out a new planner to help them stay organized. No matter how our kids are preparing, as parents, there are steps we can take to help set them up for a healthy, successful year. (Some of these steps can make a difference in our health and wellness, too!) So, let’s give ourselves a little bit of homework. Try adding these three ideas to your back-to-school list to ensure your kids have their healthiest year yet.
- Make sure your children’s vaccines are up to date. Vaccines help keep our kids — and those around them, including you — stay healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines can help protect infants, children, and teens from 16 serious diseases. Kids get many of these important vaccines when they’re little, but our preteens and teens need vaccines, too. For example, they need a yearly flu shot as well as vaccines that can help prevent meningitis, whooping cough, and HPV infections that cause cancer. Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they’re up to date on their vaccines.
- Sit down for meals together. Schedules can be hectic during the school year, but I think slowing down to enjoy meals as a family is worth the time. It’s an opportunity to connect and talk with our kids. During dinner, my husband and I try to engage our son AJ in conversations that don’t revolve around the latest app or game he wants. Instead, I ask him questions focused on activities I know happened during the school day, like “Did you get to ask your science teacher the question you had about jellyfish? What did she say?” We do our best not to have phones present during meals so everyone gets everybody’s undivided attention. We also have a mealtime game that we got as a gift and keep on the table. We each take turns picking a card, which has different questions or random facts. These cards often start conversations that last well after the meal is over!
Another benefit of family mealtimes is that we get a chance to teach our kids about healthy eating behaviors. When we sit down to eat and I’m filling my plate, I remind myself that I want to be a good role model. Because AJ is a picky eater, I put one bite of something healthy and new on his plate several times a week. I never put anything on his plate that isn’t on mine so he can see me practicing what I preach. More often than not, he doesn’t like it, but on the rare occasion that I come up with a winner, it’s a high-five celebration.
- Talk to your kids about building healthy relationships. At school, kids are dealing with a lot of different types of relationships, including those with friends, crushes, coaches, and teachers, and possibly people who bully. By talking about healthy relationships, such as how our kids should treat others and what they can expect in return, we can help them navigate these different relationships and speak up when something isn’t right. You can start with the healthy relationship basics, tips for dealing with conflict, and how to get help for bullying. But it’s also important to cover consent(link is external), unhealthy relationships, and different types of abuse. It can be tough to have these conversations, and your kids might brush you off. That doesn’t mean they don’t hear you. Keep talking — you’re establishing an open line of communication.
I’m sad to see summer come to a close, but I’m looking forward to watching my son continue to grow and all the possibilities this year brings for him. I hope that these ideas will help you and your kids as you take on a new year.