News and Information

Back-to-School Homework for Parents

08-30-2016

Dr. Ellen Davis, Pediatrician at CaroMont Pediatric Partners, Recommends Making a Healthy Checklist Before the First Day Back to School

The saying “all good things must come to an end” couldn’t be more true for parents and students as summer break comes to a close. While change is good, it’s not always easy. And just when your kids are settling into their new normal of sleeping late and fancy-free days, it’s time to get reacquainted with the school routine. With a little prep work, the right mindset and some helpful advice, parents and kids can actually look forward to the first day back to school.

Making the First Day Easier

Dr. Ellen Davis, Pediatrician at CaroMont Pediatric Partners, says, “Anxious feelings are normal and expected during times of transition or change, especially for children or teens going back to school or starting kindergarten. Because transition can be stressful for the entire family, it’s a good idea to prepare with some general coping strategies.” Here are a few of Dr. Davis’s suggestions:

  • If you’re sensing your child is anxious, remind them they’re not alone and that feeling uneasy is normal. Because children take cues from their parents, pay attention to your own behavior. The more confidence and positivity you exhibit, the more comfortable they’re going to feel about a new school year.
  • You can also redirect their anxiousness by pointing out the positive aspects of the first day back to school—they will get to see their friends and meet new ones, they’ll get to do some of their favorite school activities or they’ll get to move to a new grade.
  • Create excitement around the first day. Ask your child,“What are three things you’re most excited about on your first day back to school?” Most kids will be able to come up with something positive even if it’s getting to use their new backpack or packing their favorite snack.
  • Find a friend in the neighborhood with whom your child can ride or walk to school or walk. Or maybe you decide to take your child to school and pick them up on their first day.
  • Get your kids involved in planning their lunches and snacks the first week or create a list of school supplies and plan a shopping trip together.
  • If it’s a new school, attend orientations or tour the school before the first day of class. Begin the back-to-school routine a week or so beforehand—start waking up, eating and going to bed at earlier times.

Sleep has a great impact on our well-being and ability to learn. And while every child is different and may require more or less sleep than others, Dr. Davis recommends that parents follow sleep times for school aged children endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says that children 3-5 years should get 10-13 hours (including naps); 6-12 years: 9-12 hours and 13-18 years: 8-10 hours.

Nutrition is Key

It’s hard to learn and retain information when you’re hungry. If you are packing snacks and lunches for your child, think about including healthy options like fruits and veggies, whole grains and protein to keep them satisfied throughout the school day. When you’re already prepping for family dinners, you can save additional time by preparing lunches for the week too. Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school's website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat. Here are some tips to get you thinking outside of the “lunch box”:

  • Avoid pre-packaged and processed foods that tend to be loaded with sodium and preservatives.
  • Don’t skimp on the protein. Protein builds muscle, helps cells grow, promotes healthy metabolism, boosts the immune system and much more!
  • Don’t forget to pack a drink, preferably water, milk or 100 percent fruit juice. Avoid sugary drinks like sodas and fruit-flavored juice, which can decrease the nutritional value of your meal.

Clean Hands are “Happy” Hands

If you can sing the “Happy Birthday” song entirely through, you can effectively wash your hands. Like other public spaces, germs are lurking in your child’s classroom due to the sheer number of people coming and going. Protect yourself and your child by teaching them the importance of proper hand washing. This is especially important after using the restroom and before eating, and is one of the best ways to remove germs and avoid getting sick. For additional precautions, purchase on-the-go hand sanitizer to keep handy. However, it shouldn’t take the place of using soap and water if possible. And parents, while we want our kids to learn to share, remind them that sharing food or drink with other kids isn’t a good idea.

Those Dreaded Shots and Screenings

“Vaccinations are important safety measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and will help protect children for a lifetime,” said Dr. Davis. Because most schools require that kids are vaccinated prior to enrolling, Dr. Davis encourages parents to talk to their child’s doctor about the recommended vaccines needed for school. The American Academy of Pediatrics website fully explains childhood vaccinations and advises parents about age-specific vaccines. School districts and the health department should also be able to provide a detailed list too.

Another essential requirement parents must find time for is completing their children’s health screenings. It’s important to make sure to get routine physical exams, vision and hearing exams, and dental cleanings before school starts. Again, each school district has its own set of health requirements that must be met in order for children to attend school. The back-to-school season is a convenient time for putting these exams on your family's schedule.

With these simple steps and a positive attitude, you’ll be ready to tackle another school year and make it the best one yet!

About Ellen Davis, MD

Dr. Davis is a physician at CaroMont Pediatric Partners in Gastonia, NC specializing in pediatrics. She attended the Medical College of Virginia for medical school and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for residency. She is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Davis serves as the Quality Officer of Pediatrics for CaroMont Health and has been recognized as one of America's Top Docs by U.S. News and World Report and Castle Connolly.

Categories: Recent News, Health