School’s back! How to get your children into a happy, healthy routine.

Eid has come to an end and the first day of school is looming. After such a long summer break getting your children back into a healthy routine can be hard. Here are some simple guidelines for keeping them (and you) happy and healthy over the coming weeks:

Give them a few days to get used to the early starts. Coping with the early mornings will require getting to bed in good time. There is an abundance of research on the importance of sleep for a child’s mental and physical  health. Many of these studies point to a consistent bedtime routine as a critical step. Have a plan, write it down and then share it with your kids. What matters most is making it relaxing and consistent. Your routine could include taking a shower or a bath, brushing teeth, putting pyjamas on, and reading together. About an hour before bedtime wind down: that means no caffeine and no screen time. Following the same healthy routine every day will make it physically easier for your child to fall asleep as their body will give cues to secret hormones that induce sleep.

School Lunch
Take the time to plan your child a healthy balanced school lunch menu. Get them involved and use it as a good way to educate them on the importance of eating healthily. The reality is that the World Health Organisation reports that 70% of our young children will be overweight or obese by 2025 if current trends continue. Gulf News has reported that a startling 36% of children the UAE are obese which can lead to all kinds of long-term  health  problems. Simple rules are to avoid unnecessary sugar – fizzy drinks, juices, sugary yoghurts, are all culprits. Swap juice for fresh fruit, include lots of vegetables and try to keep it colourful and as balanced as possible. Planning a weekly school lunch menu will also help. If time or inspiration are your stumbling blocks – Right Bite offers advice and meal plans.

Lay out the ground rules from the beginning – plan out homework time and deadlines and discuss it with the family so that everyone knows the deal. For example, don’t allow playdates or TV etc. until your kids have completed their homework each day.

Traveling to School
In the UAE few of us are lucky enough to be able to walk to school, but if you can, it’s a great form of gentle exercise (don’t forget to wear hats and sunscreen!). If you’re driving to school, leave in good time to avoid rushing on the road. Check car seats and seat belts are all working and fitted correctly. If your child takes the school bus, be sure that your child knows to take care whilst getting on and off the bus – statistically this is the most dangerous part of the journey. Tell your child not to rush and to pay attention to surrounding traffic.  

Emotional Wellbeing
Starting a new school year can be an emotional time for your child. Best friends might have left the UAE, classes could have changed, teachers will be different and they will be facing new challenges. Depending on the age of your child some of the stresses they might be experiencing could range from separation anxiety, fitting in, increasing independence, physical appearance and pressure to perform. Talk to your child, ensure they know that they can come to you at any time to openly discuss any of their concerns. Be involved with their school and get to know their teachers. Don’t be afraid to seek professional advice if you think you need it and take time out so that you are relaxed and balanced in your approach. Plan your own day carefully so that you have scheduled in some dedicated, phone-free time with your children.

Physical Wellbeing
Giving your children a balanced diet and establishing regular routines will help keep them healthy. For young children, remind them of the importance of frequently washing their hands with soap throughout the school day, this will reduce the chances of them picking up a sick bug. Have all your health records in place – the UAE has strict guidelines in regards to child immunisations and different emirates have different policies. If you’re unsure what is required, contact your school registrar or nurse for clarification. Immunisations or vaccinations protect children against certain infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. The vaccines are given to children when they are young because these diseases can strike at an early age. Ideally you should get you child immunised by the age of 5.

Good luck for the new school year from everyone at Health at Hand!

Health at Hand is a new video consultation app launching soon. It will care for users by offering them the chance to talk to a doctor online about everything from flu advice to stomach pains.

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics over 70% of parents polled after a recent video consultation for their child rated the experience as better than an in surgery visit to the doctor.

Telehealth is the future.