New school supplies, clothes and a haircut are on the minds of most parents and kids this time of year, , but that’s not all that should be on the back-to-school checklist.
“As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is protect and maintain your child’s health,” said Jeanna R. Auriemma, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Starting school off on a healthy foot helps set your child up for a successful start to the school year.”
For a healthy school year, Auriemma and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer the following tips:
Ease Back Into a Sleep Schedule
Progressively ease kids into an earlier bedtime and an earlier wake-up time—even just 5 to 10 minutes earlier each night—a few weeks before school starts. Staying active during the day, having a calming bedtime routine that includes reading books together, avoiding sugar- and caffeine-laden snacks prior to bedtime and limiting late-afternoon naps can also help.
North Carolina law requires children to receive certain vaccines. Immunization records are checked upon entering child care, kindergarten, seventh grade and college.
Establish Homework Habits
Designate a “homework spot” that is quiet, organized and free of distractions and that offers an area to sit and a clean surface to write on. Family dinners are a great time to discuss with children what they learned that day in school.
Healthy Meal Options
Keep quick, healthy meal options on hand—whole-grain breads and cold cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit—to ensure a healthy start to the day. Healthy lunch options can include vegetables, fruits, dairy products, lean meats and whole grains that will help keep energy and attention high through the afternoon.
Medications and Medical Conditions
Children who regularly take medication at school are required to bring a completed authorization form to have it administered at school. Often these forms must be signed by a child’s medical provider and can be completed at their physical. It is important to keep schools informed about any potentially serious medical conditions children may have.
A yearly physical gives parents and children an opportunity to discover and discuss current and potential health problems or concerns with a medical provider. All children who are new to North Carolina schools, including kindergartners, are required to have a medical provider complete a health assessment form and return it to their school. Children participating in school sports also need a yearly physical. The best place to have this completed is with the child’s regular medical provider. You can also check with your child’s school system for guidance on fulfilling this requirement.
“Every child and family is different – some children need downtime after school and should do homework after some play time, while others need to focus on their homework right away and then have the rest of the day for free time. It’s really just learning what works best for your child,” said Auriemma. “The one thing that is the same for every family is the need to start the school year off healthy and if parents do a little homework of their own, that’s easy to achieve.”