A Healthy Return To School
By The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
COVID-19 has changed daily life for everyone. In the nearly six months since schools were open, children and caregivers have had to adjust to quarantine orders, closures, online learning, and not seeing friends and family.
As schools are now opening their doors again, it is normal that students, parents, and staff are feeling many emotions.
“Coronacation” Is Over
The term coronacation has been used to describe the lack of structure in many people’s days since the onset of the pandemic. Children do best when there is a routine in place, and the school day provides this for them.
As schools reopen and kids learn about how to keep germs from spreading, it will be helpful for parents to remember that children are returning to a new normal with new routines, and this may take some practice.
To help start the school year off on the right foot — and to keep everyone as healthy as possible — here are some things you can do at home.
Good Sleeping Habits
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important habits to help children be ready to learn.
For this school year, sleep is even more important because it can also help their immune system fight off diseases and infections. Unfortunately, sleep routines may have shifted while school was out. More relaxed bedtimes and sleeping in later are common through the summer.
Teenagers feel this the most as their body naturally wants to stay up late into the night and sleep through the morning. This can be a problem when students need to be ready for class at 9 a.m., or earlier.
To make sure students are at their best all day, they need to get enough sleep each night. Children who are five to 13 years old should get between 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Teens should get between eight to 10 hours each night.
To plan bedtime, figure out when your child needs to be ready to leave the house, and how much time they need to get ready. That time is when they need to wake up. Then, work backwards to find the best time to go to bed.
For example, if your child needs to be awake at 7 a.m. to start getting ready, and they do well with nine hours of sleep, bedtime should be 10 p.m. If they need more sleep, try moving bedtime earlier.
It is also a good idea to keep sleep and wake times the same each day. Staying up much later on the weekends, and then sleeping in, will make it tough to get up on time on Monday morning.Limiting Screen Time
Virtual (at home) learning is going to be a reality for many students this year. They will spend more time on screens, like computers and tablets. Finding a balance between screen time and non-screen time will be harder, but important.
Guidelines suggest that children between the ages of five to 17 years should keep recreational screen use to a maximum of two hours a day. “Recreational use” means using screens for things like playing games, watching TV or movies, or surfing social media. This is different than the time spent on screens for school — that would be educational screen time.
Why should screen time be limited?
Time on screens is time not spent being active, sleeping, or interacting with others. These things help with a child’s development and also keeps them healthy overall.
Knowing that screens may be used in long blocks of time for fun and education, make sure that children take breaks when using them.
For every 20 minutes spent on a screen, have them look away from the screen for at least 20 seconds. This gives the eyes a break from the screen and makes them focus on something at a different distance.
The body needs a break too. For every 60 minutes, have your child get up and move for at least five minutes.
Remember, these breaks aren’t only good for children, adults should do this too!