As summer draws to a close, many families are preparing for the next big transition of the year: back to school! Preparing your child for a new school year takes more than a new wardrobe and a shiny apple. Below are some health and safety tips to make sure your school-aged children are ready for a healthy school year before and while they attend.
School Bedtime Schedule
During the summer, many children fall into a vacation rhythm, staying up late and sleeping during the day. It’s recommended that parents start gradually imposing an earlier bedtime several weeks before school begins. During the last week, sleeping should be on the “school schedule”.
While there is a lot of variation between individuals, children need more sleep than adults. If your children are not getting enough sleep, they will have trouble concentrating, seem grouchy and tired during the day or may fall asleep during classes.
Your child may be sad that summer is ending or anxious about starting school again. Remind him or her that there probably are a lot of students with the same feelings. Also, make sure to bring back positive memories from the past year. When school starts, spend daily time with your kids to talk about their activities, interests and how their day at school was. Listen to what they say and let them know you are interested in what they think and how they feel. Let them know they can always feel comfortable talking to you.
Eating During the School Day
Children need a wide range of nutrients to help them grow and develop normally. If they eat breakfast early in the morning, they may not make it to lunchtime without feeling hungry again. Adding a snack or two to your child’s lunchbox helps ensure that he is getting the energy he needs to play and pay attention in the classroom. Not just any snack will do, whole grain bread sandwiches with lean meat, cheese or egg filling and salad; fruit; yogurt; nuts and raisins are good choices. Avoid cookies, chips, candy and soda, which are low in nutrients and high in sugar and can result in an energy crash not long after they’re eaten. It is also important that children drink enough during the school day as dehydration can cause headaches, tiredness and poor concentration.
• Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
• Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
• Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
Check-Ups and Immunizations
It’s a good idea to take your child for a physical and eye exam before school starts. Also make sure your child is up-to-date on vaccines, having children receive all their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to ensure your children’s long-term health as well as the health of classmates, and others in your community. While most schools require an up-to-date document of immunization for admission, be sure to keep your own copy of any records. By school age it is important that your child has received full doses of the following vaccines: BCG, DTaP, Polio, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, Hib, MMR and preferably the chicken pox vaccine. The flu shot is recommended annually at the beginning of the flu season, which usually starts in October. Let your healthcare provider know if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s vaccines
Regular hand washing is one of the single best ways to fight infection. Younger children should be instructed on the importance of proper hand washing before eating and after using the restroom. For situations where hand washing is not possible, consider supplying your child with packets of hand sanitizing gel.
Developing Good Homework and Study Habits
• Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a permanent workspace in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
• Schedule ample time for homework.
• Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.
• Supervise computer and Internet use.
• Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for him or her.
Vitamins and minerals are important elements of the total nutritional requirements of your child. The body needs these vitamins in only tiny amounts. In a balanced diet they are usually present in sufficient quantities. Thus, in middle childhood, supplements are rarely needed.
For some youngsters, however, pediatricians may recommend a daily supplement.
If your child has a poor appetite or erratic eating habits, or if he/she consumes a highly selective diet (such as a vegetarian diet containing no dairy products. Over-the-counter supplements are generally safe; nonetheless, they are drugs, if taken in excessive amounts particularly the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)—can be toxic. Always consult your pediatrician before giving your child supplements.