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Illustration by Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazett
Lessons for school

Help students survive long days

Schooling is often said to be about learning the three R’s. But these days, learning might not be accomplished without the three S’s.

With this winter’s overabundance of snow days, many students are facing longer school days.

Kids generally have adjusted to the change in routine, and teachers are striving to keep their kids’ attention, says Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools, where students will be in school an hour longer each day until April 23.

But parents can help their kids stay alert by focusing on sleep, sustenance and support.

Sleep

Children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep nightly to function effectively, while teens need between nine and 10 hours, according to The National Sleep Foundation.

But many kids don’t get that much, the foundation reports – only 15 percent of teens reported sleeping even 8.5 hours on school nights.

The foundation recommends not only a consistent bedtime but also keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, limiting screen time at night and staying away from caffeinated beverages.

Holli Seabury, chief executive officer of the McMillen Center for Health Education, says she has even pushed up bedtime by a half-hour for her daughter Emma, 8, who is a second-grader in Northwest Allen County Schools.

She noticed the little girl was becoming unusually hyper in the evening. “Typically, that means she’s tired and stressed.”

Sustenance

Some schools are providing an afternoon snack or encouraging parents to pack one because of the longer days.

But Julia Just, a Parkview Health registered dietitian, says “The first thing is breakfast, breakfast, breakfast.”

Students, she says, need morning protein – an egg, yogurt, peanut butter, almonds or milk – and long-acting carbohydrates and fiber in foods such as whole-grain cereal or bread.

Students also might want to avoid a heavy-carbohydrate lunch such as pizza, Just says. A better choice might be a chicken or turkey wrap with vegetables, she says.

Afternoon fogginess can come from dehydration – not just hunger, Just points out. “You can almost be sure that you’re not getting enough water,” she says.

Support

How kids think about their longer days is key, says Seabury, whose children typically are now arriving home at 4:30 and 5 p.m. after their bus rides.

Her kids have remarked that they think school “just goes on forever,” she says. But she’s been putting a positive spin on circumstances.

“I’m telling them that ‘If you don’t do this now, you’ll be sitting in school on those beautiful summer days,’ ” she says.

Seabury says she has also been limiting her family’s night-time activities, such as grocery shopping or going out for dinner.

“We’ve tried to make evenings as quiet and peaceful as possible,” she says.

“I think what is important also is to establish a routine and stick with it to cut down the stress.”

rsalter@jg.net

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