by Nicole Tran, D.O.
It’s that time again to prepare for Back to School as the summer days gradually come to an end and we begin a brand new school year! We are reminded of the hectic schedules juggling school, homework, sports, various after school activities, and trying to stay healthy through it all. A new school year often means a child must adjust to a new classroom or school, teacher, friends, and academic challenges. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind and healthy advice to begin a great start for your children!
The Three R’s
Routine: Children thrive on routines.
Whether you have a preschooler or high school teenager, the morning can be a tough adjustment to getting back into the swing of things, so set a reasonable morning routine and plan ahead for some delays the first week. Things to do the night before such as choosing the next day’s outfit along with packing lunches and backpacks allow for less stress in the mornings and avoid forgetting homework or assignments.
Breakfast is essential to getting a good start for children. Healthy eating encourages children to make the right food choices which include a variety of foods for a nutritional and well balanced diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends thinking of nutritional decisions as “health” decisions which begins at the supermarket with what we buy, what types of meals we prepare, lunches we pack, and where we choose to eat out. For more information, refer to http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/nutrition.cfm.
Safety is always part of a child’s daily routine. Please remember to discuss helmets and street safety for those riding their bikes to school, strangers for those walking to school, and car seats/seat belts along with parking lot safety for those getting rides or teens driving to school. Sunscreen in the OC is also a daily requirement even on cloudy days due to UV rays exposure. Lastly a reminder of necessary immunizations including the influenza and TdaP vaccines allow for preventative care this upcoming school year.
Staying organized is the key to a successful school year. Making lists of school assignments, reviewing each week’s extracurricular schedules, using a calendar to plan ahead for tests or major projects, and teaching children simple organizational skills will allow for the development of responsibility and good habits for academic success. The afterschool routine requires time for some cardiovascular exercise, time management skills for getting homework done efficiently, and limiting TV/computer/video game time. The AAP explains various benefits of decreasing media sedentary time and effects on child development on http://www.healthychildren.org.
Rest: The significance of establishing good bedtime routines and proper sleep hygiene.
All children need adequate sleep because it is essential for their mental and physical development. Preschoolers generally sleep 10-13 hours each night and often drop their naps after 3 years of age. Common sleep issues including frequent awakenings, difficulty falling asleep due to nighttime fears, and sleep terrors peak during preschool years. Sleep tips advice suggest developing a quiet relaxing sleep routine, establishing a consistent bedtime, using a transitional comfort toy or blanket, creating a comfortable bedroom environment, and giving reassurance.
School aged children (5-12) typically require 10-11 hours of sleep per night. The challenges for this age group are the increasing demands of homework, extracurricular activities, more interest in media, and some behavioral issues. Lack of proper or restful sleep may lead to health concerns, poor school performance, behavioral mood problems, and impacts on learning and developmental abilities. Sleep tips include teaching children about the importance of sleep, continue a regular sleep bedtime, keep TV and media out of the bedroom, avoid attention stimulating activities right before bedtime, and exercising 3 hours before bedtime may help prepare children’s bodies for sleep.
Preteens and high school students have the most demanding of the above schedules but still require substantial sleep between 8-9 hours. This age group often experiences the sleep phase shift which is influenced by hormonal changes, zero period classes, increasing homework hours, longer extracurricular requirements, social afterschool activities, even more media exposure including cell phones, compensating irregular weekend sleep patterns, poor eating habits, and growing caffeine consumption. Insufficient amount of sleep in this age group leads to enhanced mood swings and behavioral problems, decreased short term memory, inconsistent performance in school and sports, delayed response time, and overall fatigue due to the recurrent poor sleep cycle. In addition to the previous suggestions, specific adolescent sleep tips consist of emphasizing proper time management and organizational skills, avoiding big meals prior to bedtime, eliminating caffeinated drinks, limiting phone calls/texting, and media time, avoiding reading or doing homework in bed, and attaining adequate sleep nightly with a persistent sleep routine.
More information on sleep issues can be found on http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/sleep.cfm.
Reprioritize: The importance of prioritizing to maintain balance for children
Setting priorities as a family to be healthy and well balanced are extremely crucial in today’s very busy world. Looking back at the previous school year, it is clear that with each new academic year there are increasing demands of multitasking, various school schedules, multiple extracurricular activities among different ages within the same household, and escalating levels of difficulty in homework and classes that will require more attention and time. Perhaps, less is more when it comes to considering the health, behavioral, or academic issues that may be a consequence of too demanding schedules. Balance is paramount for a child’s and adolescent’s mental, physical, and emotional development. It is significant to reassess commitments to various extracurricular activities and their overall value during the school year, as new challenges may arise. Quality family time at meals, recreation, and open conversations create a home environment that fosters healthy and well balanced children.
Have a wonderful and healthy school year and remember : “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” ~ Albert Einstein
The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.