5 Tips to Help Your Child Have a Healthy School Year
July 25, 2019
As your family adjusts to back-to-school schedules, what should be on your back-to-school health checklist? Andrew Garner, MD, PhD, FAAP, with UH Rainbow Partners in Pediatrics, suggests making time for these important health activities during the fall back-to-school season.
1. See the Doc
Make sure a yearly check-up with the pediatrician is on the calendar to monitor and address your child’s overall health and development. If your kid plans to participate in sports, you can likely get any required release forms signed at the same time. And don’t forget about dental health. It’s recommended that kids get a dental check-up every six months to help prevent cavities.
2. Get Vaccines and a Flu Shot
“At a well-child visit, your pediatrician should check that your child is up-to-date on all required childhood immunizations,” Dr. Garner says. “If he or she has missed any, it’s important to play catch-up to avoid illness. This includes getting a yearly flu vaccine. School-age children have some of the highest rates of flu. Getting the flu shot is the best way to help your young one keep clear of the illness.”
3. Plan Power Meals
Start the day with a healthy breakfast, which is proven to help kids concentrate, do better in school, and have more energy. And when packing lunches, aim for something nutritious and fun. Think healthy kid-friendly pizza made with whole-grain crust and loaded with veggies.
4. Set a Schedule
Getting enough sleep is vital to your child’s ability to focus and learn. Remove devices from bedrooms to promote healthy sleep habits. And set a consistent bedtime before the school year starts to make sure you’re in a routine before the first day. “Younger kids should get about 10 to 12 hours a night while adolescents (ages 13 to 18) should get at least eight to 10 hours,” Dr. Garner says.
5. Address Their Stress … Without Screens
School pressures and academic expectations can take a mental toll. Encourage your child to manage stress with healthy distractions like exercise. Experts report that exercise can reduce tension, elevate mood, improve sleep, and boost self-esteem. For kids who might dislike competition, try other distractions that build skills, like drawing, reading, making music, cooking and solving puzzles - and minimize the screen time.
A Safety Checklist for Backpacks
- Pack it smart. Experts advise not letting children carry more than 10 to 20 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. Put the heaviest items closest to the center of your child’s back.
- Buy a backpack with a waist strap and make sure your child uses it for heavy loads.
- Tell your kids to bend with both knees – rather than bending at the waist – when picking up or wearing a heavy pack.
- Make sure the straps of the backpack are wide and padded for comfort.
- Tell your kids it’s important to use both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack only on one shoulder could increase curvature of the spine and strain muscles.
UH Rainbow has the region’s largest coordinated network of medical and surgical professionals providing care to children. Learn more about the Rainbow Care Network.