Back-to-school prep means more than a trip to the office supply store. Help kids stay strong, healthy and safe this school year by putting wellness front and center.
“Thinking about back-to-school now can help parents keep kids on track for a healthy summer and start to school,” said Dr. Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
With that in mind, Hassink recommends taking the following steps. Ease into the school schedule. Ease the back-to-school transition by keeping bedtime and meals scheduled during the summer and adjusting timing as school approaches.
If a child has been going to bed later than usual, begin adjusting his or her bedtime earlier toward the end of summer. Depending on age, children and teens need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep nightly.
For young children, arranging to see their new classroom and meet their new teacher before school starts can calm first day jitters. Go over the school schedule with the child, including how she will get to school and what the plans are for after school time.
Schedule a pediatric visit. The back-to-school season is a good time for scheduling a pediatric exam. Create a list of items to discuss with the child’s pediatrician. This list should include ensuring the child is up-to-date on vaccinations, a crucial part of preventive care.
It’s a good idea to build a medical home with a pediatrician by sticking with one doctor or medical practice throughout childhood and adolescence. The doctor will be better informed of a child’s medical history and aware of any emerging problems.
Beyond medical testing, pediatricians are well-equipped to counsel patients and parents on emotional and social issues, as well as issues that often crop up during adolescence, such as smoking, drugs, drinking, sexual activity and depression.
“Parents can ask a pediatrician about anything related to the care of their child or teen, medical or not,” said Dr Hassink. “The visit can be a good way to bring up these issues.”
Consider sports. Sports can foster confidence, cooperation and healthy habits and the start of the school year brings many opportunities to join various programs.
Hydration, nutrition and proper conditioning are important for any sport, especially those with intense training in warm weather. Schedule a sports physical with a pediatrician to discuss a child’s overall health and how to prevent injuries.
Talk safety. If a child will be walking to school, travel the route with him to assess its safety. Find out about traffic patterns and crossing guards. Teach the child safety rules like looking both ways. If possible, have your child commute with an older sibling or neighbor.
If a child will be riding a bike or skateboard, be sure he wears a helmet. Review basic rules for safer riding. Bus riders should also be mindful of safety rules, like remaining in one’s seat and listening to the driver.
Parents can take steps to help ensure children are prepared for a happy, healthy school year.