Children are heading back to school this fall and the late nights, additional screen time and never-ending trips to the snack cupboard during the extended summer break may have taken a toll on everyone. Taking a few moments to plan some routines for your family as the kids head back to school can really pay off.
Some areas to consider include balancing screen time, planning snacks and meals and building some physical activity and mental wellness activities into your schedule. The balance between ‘pandemic life’ and ‘regular life’ is tough for many families, especially as we enter September and back to the routine that Fall brings.
We often struggle to make changes to our habits and routines because let’s be honest, change can be hard! Following these steps can make changing our habits a little easier:
- Action – Specific: pick something specific that you would like to change or accomplish (ie: put cell phones away in central location before bed, or plan evening meals for the week each Sunday)
- Achievable: chose something that is achievable for your current situation, include the whole household in deciding what is achievable (ie: phones put away by 9pm on school nights, plan 3 meals each week)
- Evaluate: check in after a week or two to see how the plan is working. Make some adjustments if necessary
- Celebrate your successes: celebrating your successes – big and small – can help keep you motivated!
Screen Time Tips and Ideas:
- screen free family activity – try to include screen free time each week such as nature walks, board games or reading together
- Time Limits - Set a time limit for recreational screen time each day (this is for adults, children and youth!)
- Prioritize sleep - Keep cell phones and devices out of bedrooms during sleep hours. This can be difficult but have a discussion with your teens and choose a time to turn in the cell phone that all agree on. Oh, and buy an alarm clock if necessary!
- Leave the car at home – walk or bike to school/work or, walk between errands once you are in town.
- Active play before and after school – take advantage of the before and after school time for active free play
- Go for a family walk – this doesn’t have to be long, even 10 minutes before or after supper can make a difference
- Teach your kids a game you remember from when you were a child – if you are having trouble remembering, check out these websites for lots of active ideas! Active for Life , Fit Kids Healthy Kids
Take care of your Mental Health
- Reinforce good sleep habits – getting a good night sleep helps kids stay alert, focused in class, and provides overall improved mental health. Having a healthy sleep routine such as a reasonable and consistent bed time and a screen free room are a couple of ways to ensure good sleep habits.
- Stay connected as a family – staying positive and showing encouragement reduces anxiety and lets kids know you have their back. Take time to listen and discuss experiences that may be intimidating or challenging. Spend time every day talking to your kids about what happened in school. Give positive feedback about their experiences.
- Encourage resilience and healthy coping – discuss as a family ways you can overcome issues such as: talking with a trusted friend, adult, or counsellor, journaling your thoughts, exercising and listening to and/or playing music may be some helpful ways of coping with stress.
- Stay calm - our kids look to us for how to respond to stressful situations. Remember you being calm, helps them to remain calm. Think about ways to manage the stress you might be carrying (talking with a friend, going for a walk, making a gratitude list, etc.) so that you
The idea is not to do all of these tips and idea or to do all these things perfectly, but rather to pick one or two things that work for you and your family to gently nudge you toward better health and wellness.