The next school year is right around the corner and it’s time to think about setting your family up for a happy and successful return to the classroom. Here are ten healthy back-to-school tips to help you and your child make an emotionally and physically healthy transition back to school.
1. Plan and practice your routine
There can be a lot to keep track of when school starts. Practicing your daily routine can help your family make a smooth transition. Consider your morning routine as well as after-school activities, meal-times, household chores and homework as well as preparation for the next day. For older children, a part of their routine could include setting aside specific time each day for chores and for homework so they don’t wait until the last minute to finish it.
2. Get sleep on track
With early wake-up calls ahead, it’s important for children and teens to get back to better sleeping patterns so they get enough quality sleep. Pediatricians recommend that children age six to 12 get nine to 12 hours of sleep a night, and that teens get eight to 10 hours a night.
Here are a few ways to help your kids get the sleep they need:
- Power off the devices. The light from screens and devices interrupts the brain’s sleep cycle. All devices should be turned off an hour before bedtime to give the brain enough time to transition into sleep.
- Consider darkening shades. In the Northwest it can stay light well past bedtime. Darkening shades or blackout curtains can help kids get to sleep easier.
- Ease off caffeine. Your child or teen should stop drinking anything with caffeine–including coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks–after noon. That way, by bedtime, the stimulant will be out of their system.
3. Work on nutrition
If your kids pack a lunch to school, take some time to plan out what they take to help them with proper nutrition. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables and encourage water over soda or juice. If you have a picky eater, continue to introduce new foods, be a role model for healthy eating, and try not to use food or treats as a reward.
4. Encourage sports and activities outside of school
Giving your child an opportunity to do what they love will give them an emotional boost. This can be participating in community organizations, school or recreational sports, and other activities they love. You can also help them from overextending themselves by setting limits and giving them down time.
5. Get a sports physical and wellness exam
At Mosaic Medical we can combine a sports physical and annual wellness exam in order to cover more than the focused sports physical. Any student who plays a school sport in Oregon needs a sports physical. Every child (whether they play sports or not) deserves a complete annual wellness exam that covers many more aspects of health and wellness than the focused sports physical. If your child is due for either, we can help.
Sometimes the only time we see a child or teenager is for the sports physical, so we can use that visit to talk about other subjects with them, and make sure we take care of all their needs.
6. Update immunizations
Immunizations for school-age children help protect them from diseases like measles, mumps, pertussis, meningitis, and chickenpox. Before going back to school, having immunizations up-to-date is important for your children’s safety and for the safety of others.
7. Check vision
Good vision is critical to children’s success in the classroom. Many children will not complain if they are not seeing clearly. This makes an eye exam important. A screening eye exam can be performed at your child’s annual wellness exam. Some signs of vision problems include:
- Complaint of headaches while reading or using digital devices
- Sitting too close to a TV or other screen
- Squinting when viewing things in the distance, like the SmartBoard or a ball in gym class
- Losing their place while reading, or slipping behind in reading ability
- Poor concentration
Kids with glasses and contacts should have regular eye exams to ensure their vision is not changing as they grow. We want to make sure they have the right prescription. Vision should be checked with glasses and contacts on in your child’s annual wellness visit.
8. Have meaningful conversation (don’t take “fine” for an answer)
Depression, anxiety, and stress are big health risks for kids throughout school. Children will rarely say that they are being bullied or that they are experiencing stress. Ask your child about specific classes, what the teachers are like, and what’s happening with their friends at school. Avoid asking “How was school?” to avoid the dreaded and noncommittal answer “Fine.”
If you suspect your child is having any difficulty with depression, anxiety, bullying, or other stresses, talk with their teachers as soon as you can. Your pediatrician can also help discover and address any issues and find appropriate services for your child.
9. Have a plan if your child gets sick
In case you are unable to immediately retrieve your child at school if they get sick, having a trusted family member, friend, babysitter or child care facility to help pick up your child can be a great support for your family. This also ensures that your child will get the care they need if they get sick.
10. Take some quality time together
Take some time to reconnect with your child outside of the challenges of their school and activity schedule. Life can get pretty frenetic and stressful, and finding a way to simply reconnect is important. Take a walk, get back to nature, play a board game, or just take some time to talk as a way to ground and strengthen your relationship.
We hope these healthy back-to-school tips help you and your family to get the school year off to a great start! And please don’t hesitate to reach out to Mosaic Medical for the health advice and care your family needs.
The information included in these healthy back to school tips was provided by Dwight Carpen, a board certified family nurse practitioner with expertise in pediatrics. His special areas of focus include weight management, the impact of exercise on mental health and school performance, and the role of diet and exercise on chronic disease management. Dwight works for Mosaic at our Madras High School-Based Health Center, one of our seven full service pediatric clinics located across the region. Learn more about our School-Based Health Centers more about our integrated, holistic pediatric services.