After a long summer of staying up late, zoning out in front of the screen, playing outside, and countless hours swimming and snacking, it’s time for the kids to head back to school! And that means a focus on classes, sports and other after-school activities. Most children need help transitioning back into a routine for a successful start to the school year. Here are a few back-to-school health tips to consider:
- Set bedtimes: Going back to school means an end to staying up late. It’s essential for kids (and adults!) to get a healthy amount of sleep each night to stay focused throughout the day. Although sleep requirements vary somewhat among individuals, children and adolescents typically need more than eight hours. To get your kids ready to wake up earlier for school, consider making their bedtimes a little earlier each night for a week or two before school starts. Studies have shown that the glowing light from cellphones and tablet screens can disrupt sleep cycles, so make sure kids put electronic devices away well before bedtime.
- Schedule a physical examination and vaccinations: Annual checkups should be done by a pediatrician before each new school year to ensure that a child’s medical records and vaccinations are up to date. Consider getting flu vaccines, too, as well as hearing, eye and dental exams.
- Manage stress: Back-to-school season is stressful for kids and parents alike, but too much stress can lead to a variety of health issues, like insomnia and sluggish immune systems. Help manage stress by talking to your children about anything that’s bothering them and try not to overload schedules, including your own. Schoolwork and after-school activities are important, but it’s also essential to take time to relax, play and spend time as a family.
- Foster Good Study Habits: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests creating an environment in the home that is conducive to doing homework, such as a consistent work space in a child’s bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions and promotes study. It’s a good idea to schedule a regular time for homework so she can get into a routine. If a child is struggling with a particular subject or can’t focus, discuss this with a teacher or school counselor to determine the best solution.
- Eat Healthy: Many kids spend the summer eating differently, with fewer rules and more treats. Before the new school year starts, get your child back into the habit of eating three regular meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are packing your child’s lunch, stock up on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and lean protein. If the school lunch is your go-to, find out about lunch options and meal schedules ahead of time. And be sure and inform the school if your child has any food allergies.
Backpack Safety: Lighten the Load
Backpacks full of books and school supplies can put strain on your child’s neck, shoulders and back. Follow these steps to help prevent injury or strain:
- Use both shoulder straps when wearing a backpack, evenly distributing the weight.
- Choose a backpack with padded straps and padding along the back.
- As for size, select one that is never wider or longer than the child’s torso. Experts recommend a backpack weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s weight.
- Rolling backpacks may be a good option for students who have a lot to carry.
- Leave textbooks in a desk or locker if the book is not needed.