More than 40% of American school students feel stressed out all the time. The pressure to perform well, keep up with the piling workload, and lack of movement between classes burden these children with unrealistic expectations. Consequently, they struggle with getting good sleep, start skipping meals and soon bail on school. These stressors also leave children vulnerable to a whole host of infections.
On average, an American student faces five to seven health challenges annually. This means compromised immunity and endless doctor visits with no end in sight. A school is supposed to be a holistic learning institute where students grow academically, physically, and emotionally. You can make a difference by ensuring student well-being is considered.
As an educationist, you have a lot of say in a child’s health. You can advocate for their overall fitness, ensuring the students’ needs get met. So, as a nurse, teacher, or administrator, help students get better by doing the following:
1. Guide students through interpersonal issues
Interpersonal issues like mental health conditions and trouble with bullies can impact students. Consequently, a student may start acting out aggressively and exhibiting self-sabotaging behavior. So, if you notice a child showing signs of withdrawing, you should help them out as a school counselor.
Qualifications such as an online masters in school counseling can prepare professionals to work with students no matter how complex the circumstances. These professionals will be able to provide students a safe space and express themselves freely. This will allow counselors to target your advice according to the dilemma they are facing.
You should also provide students with reading material over topics like gender identity. When it comes to bullying, speak with the school’s principal and start an anti-bullying campaign with a strong emphasis on student advocacy. If you feel the student has severe mental health issues, notify their parents and get a psychiatrist involved.
Once a student starts responding to your support favorably, you should consider helping them fix their grades and guide them about postsecondary options. These include looking into college, enlisting in the military, or looking at trade schools.
2. Provide a nutritious diet
Students need a well-portioned diet to stay healthy. As a school dietician, you should ensure every pupil receives an adequate amount of calories according to their age group, physique, and gender. Children between six to twelve years old should get at least 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day. In comparison, college students or teenagers need about 3,000 to 4,000 calories. The meal should include carbohydrates like pasta, lean meat, and vegetables while avoiding common allergens and sugar-laden processed foods.
You should also ensure students get sufficient time to eat, which should be at least twenty minutes. At the same time, students with dysphagia should get more time with a teacher present to assist them with their meals.
Parents should also have a say about the school’s menu. This will ensure a diverse meal plan and ensure you are not overdoing one type of dish. A balanced and adequately cooked diet ensures students stay fit and doesn’t make them sick.
3. Set up immunization programs
As a school nurse, you need to ensure students have all the necessary vaccines for their immunity. While pupils can get these shots at the hospital, you can set up an immunization campaign at school to encourage them to go through with the process. It is also pivotal every student has an updated health card before applying to college and universities. These vaccines include:
- The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) shot. These vaccines get administered in early childhood. However, students who cannot get it in childhood should get the injection in their teens.
- Meningococcal (meningitis) injections. Meningococcus is a bacterial infection that can get prevented through a vaccine. The first shot gets administered at eleven while the second at sixteen. However, the student needs only one shot if they get the first at sixteen.
- Influenza Vaccine. These are annual vaccines that will help students fight against the common flu.
- COVID-19 Vaccine. This vaccine is the latest addition to the school’s health program following its discovery in 2019. Depending on the type of vaccine, a student may need single or double shots. For example, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires a single shot. The updated policies also include a booster shot now.
4. Keep frequent fitness sessions
Inclusive physical activities should be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students in elementary school to college-going pupils need frequent exercise. You should introduce vigorous activities like running, biking, and running track. Pupils should engage with these sports for at least an hour a day. Therefore, try arranging for multiple exercise slots throughout the day.
However, before they start, you should instruct the pupils on stretching techniques and deep breathing methods to help loosen their muscles and increase their lung capacity. The instructional process also includes teaching students to handle equipment with sufficient protection.
If a child gets injured while performing any physical activity, you should provide immediate first aid and have a nurse on staff to be able to help. Disabled children also need exercise. You should partner up with a special education teacher to help disabled children exercise safely and under your watchful eye. Their activities can include swimming, physical therapy, and weightlifting.
5. Get parents involved
Parents have a significant hand in ensuring their child is doing well. Students will flourish when their parents are kept in the loop by the school administration. Pupils in elementary and middle school need to have a proper bedtime, limits on screen time, and a healthy diet at home. Parents can also be instructed to ensure the child gets regular baths and has great hygiene. If a child is struggling at school, it is good to help parents find an accomplished tutor.
6. 6. Teach Hand Hygiene
No matter what age group a student occupies, they often overlook the importance of washing hands. According to the CDC, handwashing can prevent one in three diarrhea-related illnesses and one in five respiratory infections. When the pandemic was at its peak, hand hygiene was also a defense barrier against the virus. It is an excellent idea to ingrain the habit of washing hands early, so the ideal age group to start with is elementary school kids.
You can show children different animations on the appropriate way to wash their hands. Animations generally have catchy tunes and songs which are easy to remember and fun to sing along with. As a result, students may see hand cleanliness less as a chore and more of an entertaining activity and be willing to engage in it. You should also demonstrate how to wash hands through the wet, lather, and rinse method and encourage students to follow suit. Older pupils can keep sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Remind students to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, or touching their faces.
Schools can play an active part in ensuring students stay healthy. A growing child has many physical and emotional needs, and the right education will empower them to meet these needs. Don’t let a student handle interpersonal issues on their own. Provide them counseling so they learn to manage their thoughts better. Try to ensure every student gets adequate nutrition at school and home.
You also can’t discount the importance of exercise and fitness, especially for students with disabilities. By advocating for parents to be part of their child’s education, you will ensure that they can provide a good environment at home.