By Valerie Huepenbecker, Licensed School Counselor
January is a great time to start thinking about starting a new healthy habit. People are creatures of habit. A habit is something we do daily without thinking. As parents and educators we need to help our children establish healthy habits for learning. Try not to get overwhelmed by changing everything at once, start small and build off of one small change at a time. Here are some ideas for healthy habits for students.
CREATE SLEEP ROUTINES
According to The National Sleep Foundation, “Inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.” You can help your child establish a good sleep routine by limiting TV and computer time before bed, make the child’s room dark and quiet, and set and keep a regular and consistent bedtime. The Mayo Clinic recommends school-age children receive 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night. Set a bedtime routine with reading and keep it consistent. Practice deep breathing or mindfulness exercises before bed to prepare the body and mind for rest.
CREATE NUTRITION AND EXERCISE
Good nutrition and daily exercise is essential to healthy brain development which is critical to learning. The American Psychological Association states that children who eat a healthy diet and exercise daily are more likely to perform better academically, feel better about themselves and their abilities, and avoid feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Simple things can lead to big health improvements for your child. Start your child’s day with a healthy breakfast, pack healthy snacks, and have fun being active with your child. Take a family bike ride or play catch in the yard, it is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. By starting these habits early, maybe we can change the almost 30 percent of American children who are overweight. (Retrieved from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health)
CREATE ORGANIZATION/HOMEWORK ROUTINES
Provide your child with a time and place to focus, study and read their school work. This environment might look differently for different students. Some children need a quiet place, like a desk in their bedroom. Others prefer the kitchen table. What is most important is that the time and place be consistent, so the child forms the habit of doing daily school work.
Keep things organized by helping your child prepare for the next day. Keep backpacks in the same place every night, lunches packed the night before, and clothes laid out. This will help the morning run smoothly and create the environment for an organized good morning. Help your child create checklists of things that need to be done at night and in the morning. Hang the checklists in their room or on a bathroom mirror.
Remember to not get overwhelmed by changing too many things at once. Start small, be consistent and before you know it you will be creating a healthy habit!