A Good School Year: Sleep, Nutrition and Bullying Prevention

How to have a good school year was the topic developed in the segment Un Minuto de Salud in La Hora del Café.

In this opportunity, El Mundo Boston spoke with Dr. Katia Canénguez, a child and adolescent psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Canénguez is a Ph.D., Ed.M., MGH Pediatric Psychologist, clinical researcher at the MGH Mongan Institute and instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Canénguez sheds light on key issues affecting today’s children and youth and offers expert insights on sleep, bullying and mental health.

Join us for a quick and informative health minute as we delve into strategies to promote the well-being of our children and teens.

Can You Tell Us About Your Work at Massachusetts General Hospital?

Dr. Katia Canénguez: Certainly. I am a child and adolescent psychologist and my work consists mainly of working with children and adolescents.

We focus not only on the individual but also on the family because it is crucial to understand that the well-being of children and adolescents is closely related to their family dynamics.

Let’s Start With a Common Question. How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Recommend for Elementary School Children?

KC: For elementary school children, I would recommend at least nine hours of sleep each night.

However, this can vary depending on factors such as school start times and bus schedules.

It is critical to consider what time they need to wake up and figure out what time to go to bed.

What About Children Who Have Difficulty Falling Asleep Quickly? Do You Have Any Tips for Parents to Help Their Children Fall Asleep Faster, Especially Those With Active Minds?

KC: Certainly. It’s critical to limit the use of electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. This includes phones, tablets and computers.

This allows the brain to relax and prepare for sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine is also vital.

Children should understand that one hour before bedtime is the time to start preparing for sleep.

We Hear a Lot About Cyberbullying and Bullying Today. When Does Teasing Between Children Cross the Line into Bullying and When Should Parents Take Action?

KC: Bullying can take many forms, especially in today’s digital age.

Cyberbullying can be particularly hurtful because hurtful comments can persist and cause prolonged distress.

When it comes to bullying, parents need to be vigilant.

If your child repeatedly experiences hurtful behavior, whether online or offline, it’s time to take action.

Open communication is key. Talk to your child, teachers and school administrators to address the problem as soon as possible.

What Are Some Signs Parents Should Watch for That May Indicate Possible Mental Health Issues in Their Children, Such as Anxiety or Depression? How to Have a Good School Year in This Regard?

KC: Parents should be on the lookout for any physical complaints or symptoms their children may have.

Complaints such as headaches or stomachaches can sometimes be indicative of mental health issues.

Spending quality time with your children, participating in activities and maintaining open lines of communication is essential.

If you notice any persistent changes in behavior or mood, it is essential to seek help from health professionals, school counselors or religious leaders who can offer guidance and support.

How to have a good school year

How to Have a Good School Year

The start of a new school year is an exciting time for both children and parents.

For this reason, it is a good time to consider tools on how to have a good school year, regardless of the date.

However, the transition from summer vacation to the structured routine of school can be challenging for many children and teens.

As parents and caregivers, there are three critical aspects we can consider to help our children and teens get off to a good start and ensure their physical and emotional well-being throughout the school year: maintaining sleep and eating routines and equipping them with tools to prevent and manage bullying.

Sleep routines:

Getting enough sleep is essential for a child’s physical and cognitive development. It helps them stay alert, focused and ready to learn.

To make sure your child gets enough sleep, consider these tips:

  • Bedtime: set a fixed bedtime that allows your child to get the recommended amount of sleep for their age. For elementary school children, this is around 9 to 11 hours per night.
  • Screen time limits: reduce the use of electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Create a bedtime routine: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine that signals to your child that it is time to wind down. Activities such as reading a book or taking a warm bath can help.
  • Limit caffeine: Avoid caffeine-containing beverages at night, as they can interfere with sleep.
  • Comfortable sleeping environment: Make sure your child’s room is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature.

Maintain healthy eating habits:

Proper nutrition is crucial to a child’s growth, development and overall well-being. Encourage healthy eating habits by

  • Balanced meals: including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy products.
  • Regular meal times: follow regular meal and snack times to help regulate appetite and energy levels.
  • Limit sugary and processed foods: Minimize consumption of sugary and processed foods high in unhealthy fats and sugars.
  • Involve children: involve your child in meal planning and preparation to teach them about nutrition and encourage them to make healthier choices.
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure your child stays hydrated by offering water throughout the day.

Bullying Prevention:

Bullying can have a profound and lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being.

Equip your child with tools to prevent and address bullying:

  • Open communication: keep open lines of communication with your child, so he or she feels comfortable talking about any concerns or incidents at school.
  • Teach assertiveness: encourage your child to stand up for themselves in an assertive but respectful manner when facing bullying situations. Teach them to use first-person statements and to seek help from trusted adults.
  • Empathy and kindness: teach your child the importance of empathy and kindness toward others. Encourage them to be inclusive and to stand up to bullying when they witness it happening to others.
  • School involvement: Establish contact with your child’s school and teachers. Be aware of the school’s anti-bullying policies and procedures.
  • Supportive environment: create a supportive, non-judgmental home environment where your child feels safe and loved.

The information contained on the My Health Fair website should not be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations.

Readers should direct any questions regarding personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate health professionals.