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
- 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.