AS students of all ages get ready to say goodbye to the summer and hello to a new school year, experts from BC Children’s Hospital are sharing tips to help parents and kids support positive physical and mental health.
“When students are active in their bodies and minds, they are more able to learn, be creative, build healthy relationships and try new things,” said Dr. Ashley Miller, a psychiatrist with BC Children’s Hospital. “Young people can also be more able to cope in healthy ways when faced with stress or feelings of anxiety.”
Research shows that children, youth and young adults who participate in regular physical activity and practice self-care activities such as mindfulness are more likely to meet academic goals, improve their memory and focus and boost self-esteem and confidence.
Tips for students:
- Take a breather: Try practicing mindfulness. It can reduce stress, boost positive emotions, and improve focus and memory.
- Unplug: Take time to turn off your phone, computer and TV. Try disconnecting and taking time to relax and enjoy hobbies and activities or time with friends and family.
- Take care of your body: Enjoy regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods and ensure you’re getting enough sleep.
- Ask for help when you need it: Try talking to someone if you’re not feeling like yourself, and access medical help and resources when you need the support.
Tips for parents / caregivers:
- Prepare for transitions: Whether it’s your child’s first day of kindergarten or university, try taking steps before school starts to help them work through the change.
- Start a regular routine: Ease back-to-school stress and anxiety through getting into a regular routine and practicing things like packing lunches or walking to school.
- Keep active as a family: Getting active together can increase connectedness and togetherness, which supports positive mental health.
- Keep the lines of communication open: Parents and caregivers can try talking to their children over meals, taking a walk or during a car ride.
- Practice self-care: Parents and caregivers should also take steps to ease their own stress. Try practicing mindfulness, talking to a friend or taking a walk.
- Only 35 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds are reaching their recommended physical activity levels as outlined in the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.
- Just 62 per cent of three- and four-year-olds are achieving the recommended activity levels for their age group.
- In addition, 51 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds and 76 per cent of three- and four-year-olds are engaging in more screen time than is recommended for recreational, screen-based sedentary behaviour.
- According to the 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey, 82 per cent of youth in B.C. spent time online or on their phones when they were supposed to be asleep.
- Children and youth aged 12-14 may need up to 10 hours of sleep per night.