ABCs of Back-to-School Health
Can you believe it's time to start preparing to go back to school? Whether that thought fills you with joy or sadness, one thing is certain - it adds more to a parent's to-do list. But getting ready for a new school year isn't just about buying school supplies and clothing. It's also the perfect time to reassess your child's health and habits, and make needed tweaks for the new school year.
Tackling the school day, extracurricular activities and homework requires a lot of energy and focus. To help your student be physically and mentally up to the task, evaluate these three things:
Schedule an annual physical examination for your child before the school-year rush. It is a great way to help your child stay healthy and keep on top of any issues. Write down any questions that have come up over the past year. If your child needs health assessment forms completed for school or sports, bring those with you.
At an annual physical examination, your child's pediatrician will check for abnormalities and run tests needed to monitor your child's condition. Your child also will receive age-based immunizations and booster shots.
Your doctor may talk to your child about nutrition, exercise and the importance of self-care. For adolescents, the annual checkup is a good opportunity to talk about emotional wellbeing and social behaviors as well.
We've all experienced being overtired and losing focus. For kids, this is an everyday issue since their primary "job" is to learn all day long. Staying alert is the foundation of a successful academic career. But kids can’t pay attention if they feel exhausted.
After-school activities, homework, screen time and parties can eat up a lot of hours leading to late bedtimes. Now is the time to rethink your child's bedtime and sleep needs. Here are the guidelines for how many hours of sleep your child needs each night:
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old): 11 to 14 hours
- School children (6 to 12 years old): 8 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): 8 to 11 hours
To help your child drift off earlier and re-set his internal clock, make sure he goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day.
A soothing bedtime routine also can help. Have your child wrap up homework and turn off screens at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Then, encourage your child to engage in relaxing activities, such as taking a bath, reading, journaling or doodling.
If, despite your best efforts, your child struggles to fall or remain asleep, talk to your child’s doctor. Your physician may recommend that your child take part in pediatric sleep studies to determine whether there’s an underlying problem.
There's no getting away from technology. TVs, video games, computers, tablets and smartphones are everywhere. While they're certainly fun and can be enriching and useful tools, many kids become too attached to screens.
Being constantly connected to the digital world can negatively affect your child's sleep, weight and relationships. As you prepare your student to go back to school, reevaluate your child's screen time and determine whether you should establish new boundaries, such as:
- Designating bedrooms and dining rooms as media-free, screen-free zones
- Prohibiting all digital media for entertainment before homework is completed
- Designating certain times, like family dinner, as media-free
- Limiting screen time to no more than two hours per day
- Stopping screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Restricting digital media use ensures your child has enough time for homework, sleep, physical activity and face-to-face socializing. Making adjustments now sets your child up for a successful school year.