Back-to-school ABCs for Total Family Fitness

As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters.

A: Awareness

  • It’s likely your family’s schedule shifted during the summer. Now’s the time to increase your kids’ awareness of their back-to-school routines. Planned routines create consistency, and kids thrive in stable environments. Routines ease symptoms by providing predictability, especially if your child is prone to anxiety or depression.
  • Start your family’s “back-to-school action plan”: Write out a schedule that includes your kids’ wake-up times, morning chores, and out-the-door times. Tell them what time school ends, and discuss a plan for getting homework done. Set up a steady dinnertime and a regular routine for winding down before bed. And practice your routine a few times before school starts.

B: Bedtime

  • Ease your kids into a new bedtime sooner rather than later. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night—beginning 2 weeks before school starts—until they’re back on track. School-age kids need about 9–10 hours of sleep each night, so choose a bedtime that hits that goal. Encourage your children to break from electronics at least 2 hours before bed. Blue light from screens and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles.
  • Getting a good night’s sleep helps improve kids’ learning abilities, attention spans, and problem-solving skills that are important for total fitness. On the flip side, kids who don’t get enough sleep might have more problems with peers, experience more mood swings, and get lower grades.

C: Calmness

  • Since kids sometimes worry about going back to school, talk with them about their concerns to help them reach a sense of calmness. Maybe they’re worried about dealing with bullies, taking advanced math, or making new friends. Encourage them to discuss their fears. And come up with a plan together so they feel ready to take on the next challenge!
  • If your child is worried about bullies, then commit to checking in regularly to talk about what’s happening during school and after-school activities. If the worry is math class, discuss options for getting a tutor or extra help from a classmate or teacher. If your child is concerned about making friends, try to schedule a few one-on-one play dates with one or two classmates before school starts. Feeling connected to someone in class can help kids adjust to school sooner.

D: Diet

  • Part of back-to-school excitement is picking out a new lunch box or bag. What can you fill it with to give your kids the best nutritional edge and ensure they have a healthy diet? Check out My Plate and include protein, fruit and/or vegetable, whole grain, and dairy in lunch every day.
  • Tip: Fill a whole-grain tortilla with hummus, shredded cheese, and shredded veggies (carrots, cabbage, or broccoli). Or try nut butter with a banana. And add low-fat milk or yogurt to complete your Total Family Fitness meal.

E: Exercise

  • Talk with your kids about the importance of staying active this school year. Children who exercise regularly perform better in school. If it’s safe and not too far, encourage your kids to ride their bikes or walk to school. Make sure they set aside time after school to play outside with friends. Or urge them to get involved in sports and other after-school activities. This also can help reduce their screen time.
  • Even better: Get active with your kids. By setting a good example, you stay active while reaching Total Family Fitness!

For more quick tips on getting your kids back into the academic year, check out HPRC’s “Ready for School? It’s As Easy As ABC.”

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