Fall is in full swing, and for most families, so is a return to the school year routine. But for some kids, adjusting back to this schedule can be stressful—and can take a little longer than you’d like to find balance.
But now that you have to organize your days around school work, extracurricular activities, and other events, healthy habits can easily fall by the wayside. Luckily, autumn is the perfect time of year to rein in these bad behaviors and establish a new set of healthy practices that will carry you through to the end of the year and beyond.
Rise and shine
For those who like to sleep in, weekday mornings are a rude awakening. You and your kids will have a set wake-up time and a restricted time frame before you have to run out the door. Instead of racing through your morning, make sure you allot enough time to each task you need to accomplish—showering, eating breakfast, getting your belongings together—because it’s better to work with the clock rather than against it.
Once you’ve estimated how much time each task will take, you can decide which parts of your routine to adapt to first—and why not start at the beginning?
Your day often begins and ends at the bathroom sink, where much of your routine occurs. If you have to shuffle little ones out of bed and into the bathroom in the morning, try making this a more fun and inviting space. One of kids’ least favorite tasks—brushing teeth—can be made exciting by playing music and timing their brushing to the tune. According to the ADA, it should take at least one minute and thirty seconds to properly brush your teeth—the perfect amount of time to fit in your child’s favorite song. You can even let them pick out a brand-new toothbrush to help them get excited about the idea.
Incorporating other basic oral hygiene habits, like flossing and rinsing with mouthwash, is also important for a back to school routine. Starting these positive practices slowly, while kids are adjusting, will encourage them to continue these behaviors throughout the year and can help ensure their pearly whites look nice on picture day.
Ween off the sugar
Ice cream, slushies, cotton candy—they’re a favorite for kids but they also do a number on our teeth (and our health in general). Use any opportunity when the kids aren’t home to clean up the fridge and pantry and replace sugary drinks and snacks with less-acidic, healthier options. Fruits like apples and berries are still in season in some places, and they make for a delicious snack that won’t be as hard on sensitive teeth, as well as crunchy veggies that are high in vitamin A, like carrots and broccoli.
Along with switching up the foods your family is eating, making sure they have plenty of healthful drinks to enjoy is equally important. Juices like lemonade and orange juice are delicious on a warm day, but the high level of acid can do major damage to your enamel. Water is always the best choice, but if you find it difficult to get your kids excited about the thought of plain water, try throwing a bottle of unsweetened fruit-flavored sparkling water into their lunch bags.
It’s also a good idea to schedule a dental appointment early in the school year. Kids typically must have a number of medical clearances before heading back to school, but a trip to the dentist isn’t usually one of them. This doesn’t mean it’s not important, though. Summer snacking could have resulted in the dreaded cavity, but even if your child leaves the dentist’s chair with a clean bill of health, you’ll want to tackle any possible procedures—like fillings and sealant treatments—while he or she has time to relax at home afterward.
Keeping up after school
Once your child gets home from school, it’s important to keep the healthy habits going and establish a set time for before-bed tasks. Of course, your schedule can be subject to change with extracurricular activities or other plans, but it’s extremely helpful to establish an expected time for children to bathe, brush their teeth, and get ready to go to sleep.
Once dinner is done, encourage kids to help clear the table and, when everything is cleaned up, allow them thirty minutes of an activity they enjoy (if time allows and their homework is finished). Not only does this help move the after-dinner cleanup process along, it will help establish order and allow your kids time to release some energy before bed.
If getting kids into the bathroom in the morning is tough, maintaining a proper evening routine can be even more challenging. But it’s important to take into consideration that, between school and any after-school activities they may have, your children are likely very tired, even if they won’t admit it. Encourage them to complete all of the necessary before-bed tasks, like putting on their pajamas and brushing their teeth, by reading to them throughout or turning the process into a game or puzzle.
Patience is a virtue
Ultimately, getting back into the swing of things during the school year takes time. It’s a busy time of the year for everyone, so take solace in the fact that you’re not alone in the madness.
What’s most important to remember is that, by establishing a set routine early and trying your best to stick to it, your family will adapt much more quickly and will avoid getting burned out. Find the routine that works best for you and your family, and help keep everyone healthy (and stress free) this season.