As a parent, you’ve probably realized that your kids can be a bit…germy. Now imagine your child multiplied by one hundred kids. It’s no wonder they get sick so easily. Germs are everywhere, and a lot of kids don’t know that there are ways to avoid them—or that they even should.
Here are several steps you can take, as a parent, to help your child stay healthy at school.
1. Help them understand hand-washing is important. There are a lot of kids at school who don’t wash their hands and then touch surfaces, and other kids, with them. Even children who do wash their hands but don’t think about the surfaces they touched before they touched their eyes, nose and mouth can spread the germs found on their hands to their body. Teach your kids to wash their hands before they eat or touch their face and after going to the bathroom, blowing their nose or playing outside.
For many kids, hand-washing may seem like a chore. Make hand-washing fun for your kids by teaching them some fun songs to sing while they wash. In school, we were taught to sing “Happy Birthday” twice to make sure we thoroughly washed our hands; it also helped pass the time.
What about hand sanitizer?
While this is a viable option, and better than nothing at all, this should be a secondary choice for your kids. Hand-washing will more thoroughly remove the germs found on their hands.
2. Teach them how to sneeze and cough. Teach your kids the importance of using a tissue to cover their sneeze or cough. Then, after they’re done, make sure they know to throw that tissue away and then wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
To help your child remember, send them with a tissue box they can leave on their desk and use throughout the day, as needed.
3. Tell them to look out for their face. Our eyes, nose and mouth are the entryways germs use to get into the body. Teach your kids about how germs spread so they become more mindful about how to prevent illness.
4. Send your child to school with his/her own water bottle. You may also remember this from school growing up, but water fountains are covered in germs. To reduce your kids’ need for them, send them their own water bottle to school. That way, your child will have the water bottle close by during the day so they can stay hydrated and won’t be at risk of catching something by using the water fountain.
5. Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to your kids’ food. While it’s fine if your child wants to share some of his food with a friend, eating after one another or letting a friend touch his/her food isn’t something your child should be doing. Infections and germs can spread all the more easily that way.
6. Foster healthy eating habits in your kids. Eating a more nutritious diet will improve your kids’ health overall and help them reduce their susceptibility to illnesses. To understand how to do this for your kids, check out one of our recent articles on encouraging kids to eat healthy food.
7. Encourage physical activity. Kids need to move around and play; it’s their exercise. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), school-age children (2 years of age and older) need a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Can’t get your child to be physically active? Start thinking of ways you can be active as a family. Go for a bike ride, play tag or other games in the backyard, etc.
8. Make sure they’re getting enough sleep. Getting your kids to go to bed can be a battle, but it’s worth the effort. Make sure your kids get to sleep early so they’ll get plenty of rest for the betterment of their health and immune system. You can find recommended hours of sleep needed for children, based on their age, and some helpful tips for parents in 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep.
9. Back-to-school vaccinations. This isn’t just propaganda. Back-to-school shots are important for your kids’ health. They will help your kids build immunity to some of the illnesses that will inevitably pass through the school during the course of the school year. Be prepared by having your child up-to-date on his/her vaccinations.
10. Give them their vitamins. Another way to help your child’s body combat illnesses and stay healthy at school this year is to give them their daily vitamins. They’ll help keep them healthy and strong. There are even chewy, gummy vitamins they can take, which most kids really enjoy.
11. Kids will get sick; keep them at home when necessary. No matter how many of these useful steps your kids try, kids will inevitably get sick. Luckily, following the steps listed above can help reduce the amount of times your child is sick. But when they do get sick, consider letting them stay home from school. Another reason why kids get sick throughout the school year is because many parents send their children back to school before they’re actually over whatever illness they were dealing with. If your child is sick, let him stay home. Most schools recommend students stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever has broken.
For specific information on certain illnesses and how they spread and can be stopped, check out this article by Parents.com.
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do as parents to help your child stay healthy at school. There’s no guarantee your child will actually practice these steps when they’re at school, but if you continue to make these same things a priority in the home, it will eventually become a habit for them. You may even create a healthier household because of it.
Teachers can also be a great help! If you’re a teacher, make sure the kids in your class:
- Understand proper hygiene and hand-washing techniques.
- Keep their desks and your classroom clean. (It might be a good idea to invest in some disinfectant wipes or put it on your supply list).
- See you as a role model of healthy behaviors for them.
- Are sent home or to the nurse’s office as soon as they start to feel ill or show signs of getting sick.
Increasing the health of kids at school can greatly benefit them and you. They’ll miss less school, feel better overall and spend more time learning in the classroom.
What steps have you found helpful for teaching your child how to stay healthy at school?