As many schools across Qatar re-open this week after the long summer break, parents are advised to help their children establish a good bedtime routine and sleep schedule to ensure they are rested and fully alert for school.
“Returning to school after summer holidays can be a challenging time, especially as children move from holiday mode to the daily routine of going to bed early and waking early. This is why it is important for parents to help their children gradually readjust to a school-time sleep-schedule, ensuring they get between eight to ten hours of sleep each night,” said Senior Consultant, Pediatric Emergency, at Hamad Medical Corporation, Dr. Khalid Abdulla Al Yafei.
He stated that slowly adjusting sleep and waking hours a week or two before school starts and rescheduling eating, studying and sleeping times is ideal for helping children to make the transition. “Ideally, sleep adjustment should start gradually. For most young children, a bedtime of 8pm or earlier is recommended. It is important to ensure the child gets between eight to ten hours of quality sleep each night,” he said.
He stressed the importance of maintaining a calm and quiet environment during bedtime, stating it helps to ensure children are able to relax and unwind as they prepare to sleep. “It is important to maintain a quiet atmosphere during the night, especially around children’s bedtime.”
Dr. Al Yafei also encourages parents to be role models for their children, setting a good example by establishing their own regular sleep schedule and promoting healthy eating and lifestyle practices. He says it is important for children to eat a healthy and balanced diet and to get daily exercise, both of which will help stimulate concentration and allow children to feel their best while at school. “Balanced meals mean eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. Adding that it means consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight,” he said.
He suggested parents provide their children with meals that are rich in nutrients and minerals, especially during breakfast. He added that consumption of caffeinated drinks and fatty foods, which are known to cause obesity and irregular heart rates, should be avoided.
While many schools have a canteen or offer a hot lunch service, Dr. Al Yafei says a packed lunch from home is a great way for children to learn about healthy foods. He provides the following tips for preparing lunch box meals:
• Sandwiches or pita bread with zaatar, cheese, lean meat, hummus and salad are great options (be cautious when offering meats that will not be refrigerated).
• Cheese slices, crackers with spread, fresh or dried fruits and raw vegetables make fantastic snacks.
• Frozen water bottles or tetra packs of milk or natural fruit juice are great beverage options, particularly during hot weather.
Dr. Al Yafei also advises parents to limit the time their child spends with electronic gadgets such as video games, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. He says parents and children should work together to decide how much time to spend with electronic devices each day. He recommends one hour a day as a good starting point.
He also recommends being mindful of a child’s size when purchasing and packing school backpacks, adding that a backpack should not weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s weight. He says bags with wheels are a great option to avoid back strain. “Books and other school items should be kept in the middle of the bag and not on the sides,” he said.
Dr. Al Yafei also advises that parents provide emotional support for their children as they ease back into the school year, noting that for some children the beginning of the school year is accompanied by stress and anxiety. “Parents should talk to children about the positive experiences associated with returning to school. Help children get excited about learning new things and making new friends,” he added.