With the arrival of the new school year, parents need to remember the importance of keeping their children healthy, a pediatrician advises.
“As we approach the beginning of each school year, we must consider the ongoing health of our children. Ages differ, and therefore needs and concerns differ, but principles remain the same. Healthier children are happier children,” Dr. Peter Richel, a pediatrician at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said in a hospital news release.
He outlined a number of ways to help children stay healthy during the school year. One important consideration is making sure they get enough sleep.
“We often allow later bedtimes during summer months, usually compensating with later sleeping each morning, but adequate rest cannot be overemphasized once school begins. Bedtime routines are very important, especially with earlier start times. Try not to overbook children with activities, especially younger children. Inadequate rest can lead to lowered resistance, and increase susceptibility to illness,” Richel said.
Good nutrition is another key factor. Children need to have three meals a day, including a good breakfast. Snacks should be as healthy as possible. Children also need to get daily exercise.
Certain vaccinations are needed when kids begin kindergarten, and requirements may vary slightly by state.
Anxiety can be a problem for some children as they start the new school year.
“Parents should encourage their children to discuss anything that makes them nervous about returning to school or going to school for the first time. If it is riding the bus, look into ‘practice runs’ on the bus, or work with your child to imagine that your car is the bus,” Richel suggested.
“If they worry about the school itself, take a tour or two before the first day of school to help them get oriented, and say hello to their new teacher when they visit the school. If they are concerned about being separated from you, have them pick a special toy or stuffed animal that they can put in their backpack and take to school with them. Place a note in their lunchbox expressing how proud you are of them, and if they are not reading yet, simply draw a heart or something they like, such as a truck,” Richel advised.
Safety is another important consideration.
“Parents should review and encourage bus safety for those children who ride, and safe driving for those adolescents who drive to high school and college,” Richel said.
When using a backpack for school, children should use both straps when wearing it. If they use a one-strap saddle book bag, or carry athletic bags with sports gear, they should switch sides every day.
Avoid putting too much pressure on children to do well, because it can be counterproductive.
“Don’t demand perfection, simply encourage each child to do their best. Students who achieve success as scholars, athletes and musicians feel good about themselves. Remember, each child is an individual, and need not feel pressure to do all things, or to do all things well. Try not to compare them to siblings or friends,” Richel said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about school health.