Between remote learning, socially distancing and dealing with so much uncertainty, 2020 was anything but easy. And now with many states implementing in-person returns for the 2021 school year, there is a collective feeling of anxiety among children, students and teachers.
After such a challenging year with so many ups and downs, the biggest questions on parents’ minds is: “how can I help my children manage their feelings and adjust to this new routine?”
Conor Heneghan, PhD, Senior Staff Research Scientist at Fitbit and Dr. Donna Novak, Psy.D. psychologist, share their insights.
How can parents help their kids with the back-to-school transition this year?
To mentally prepare your kids to go back to school, one of the best things you can do is talk to them about their feelings, Dr. Donna Novak, Psy.D., a Simi Valley, CA-based psychologist, explains. Sit down with your child to talk openly about their anxiety. Ask them to share exactly what is making them nervous.
Remember, when discussing your child’s emotions, it’s important to make sure your emotions aren’t getting in the way; your stress and worry are your own and it won’t help your child to carry that additional baggage.
Taking time to speak with your children and work through their emotions—and create an action plan—can make a difference in terms of their confidence and self-esteem level.
How does the Fitbit Sense help with stress management?
Over the last year, most of us have experienced stress in some way, whether we’re dealing with anxiety, sadness or other tolls from the pandemic, says Conor Heneghan, PhD, Senior Staff Research Scientist at Fitbit. We built Fitbit Sense to help people increase their resilience to stress by looking at both the physical and mental aspects. It has the world’s first on-device EDA sensor for a consumer smartwatch. This sensor helps detect small electrical changes on your skin, helping you to understand and monitor your body’s response to stressors.
Our on-device and in-app experience also give you tools to develop habits to better manage both your physical and mental stress. The Stress Management Score breaks down and correlates your heart health, sleep and activity levels to show your body’s daily capacity to handle stress. This is important because stress can impact, or be impacted by, things like heart health metrics, how well you sleep and your exercise levels. It also offers recommendations on various methods to manage stress, whether physical activities, steps to enhance sleep or even a tip from the American Heart Association.
Fitbit can also help you establish a regular stress management practice through mindfulness and meditation exercises – just like you would for physical exercise. Users can use the Mindfulness section in the app to set a weekly goal and reminders, practice meditation and log their mood after every session so they can track progress.
What are some best practices for getting a handle on the natural jitters that back to school brings (this year more so than ever)?
Beyond understanding your own stressors and how to best manage them, it’s also key to understand that stress is not only mental but physical. This includes both physical exertion – like a tough workout – and recovery – a good night’s sleep. While back-to-school jitters are natural, especially this year, taking control of what you can will leave you best placed to manage this – an important reminder for both parents and their kids, Dr. Heneghan explains.
Let’s focus on sleep for example. Setting a sleep schedule and helping to establish a consistent routine are the most important things we all can do to ensure quality sleep and the subsequent benefits. From there, there are many other options – let me share a few that my wife and I have found work for us. First, regulating your bedroom temperature. My wife and I keep ours around 72 degrees, but you can choose the temperature that works for you. Try to keep the room as dark as possible–I personally have blackout curtains in my bedroom and sometimes sleep with an eye mask–and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake before bed. Going back to school also often means a much earlier wake up time compared to summer vacation. While it’s tempting to make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends, in general, your body responds best to a pretty consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Try not to create too large a difference between your weekday and weekend schedules, if you can avoid it.
It can be hard to know how good your sleep actually is each night since you are, you know, asleep, so I track my sleep with my Fitbit each night and check my Sleep Score each morning. This shows me things like how long I spent in each stage of sleep, including time awake. It’s interesting to look at each morning, but the real benefit for overall health is in tracking sleep trends over time. It helps you learn what may negatively or positively impact your sleep, putting you in more control of your sleep habits.
My other advice to ease jitters: take time to rest and rejuvenate your mental health.
When it comes to keeping stress at bay, getting a good night’s sleep is a crucial component. How can the Fitbit Ace 3 promote better sleep?
Children ages six and up can use Fitbit Ace 3 to track their sleep and help them stick to a consistent schedule, which we know is important as studies have shown that children who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, injuries and poor mental health, says Dr. Heneghan. One of the great things about Ace 3 is that kids can review their sleep data along with their parents, who can use these insights to adjust their back-to-school routines. Families can also use bedtime reminders and alarms to keep bedtime and wake up times consistent, and to ensure kids are getting the right amount of sleep to stay physically and mentally healthy. You can even set sleep goals to make maintaining that sleep schedule a bit more fun.
The Fitbit Luxe provides a big picture of our overall well-being. Can you explain how it works and how can we utilize it to promote better mental and physical health?
Fitbit Luxe is a very versatile tracker–it keeps health and wellness at the forefront, but also looks more like jewelry for any occasion, Dr. Heneghan explains. It comes with advanced health, wellness and fitness features designed to help you track your body’s key metrics so you can better understand and take control of your health, all with up to five days of battery life.
One of our most comfortable devices, you can wear Luxe 24/7 to get overall insights into your wellbeing through tools for stress management, sleep tracking, exercise, nutrition and more. Features like the Stress Management Score, Sleep Score, breathing rate measurement and even blood glucose logging for those with diabetes make it easy to stay informed and take control over your holistic health and wellness.