Summer is almost over and that means you’re most likely preparing your kids for the new school year. While getting your children fashion ready with new clothes and gathering all the necessary supplies is an important component to going back to school, it’s also a good time to fit in appointments to the pediatrician, dentist and eye doctor.
To prepare your children for their first day of school we turned to the experts to make sure their health fits the grade.
Establish a sleep routine
Those nights of staying up late are coming to an end. Getting up early can be a hard adjustment especially for the younger kids. Dr. Warren Seigel, Chairman of Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital in New York, says: “Start with going to bed one hour earlier every night and waking up early until the new routine is established,” he told CBS News. “It needs to be done a week or two before going back to school, not the night before school starts.”
Another thing to incorporate into your kids’ nightly routine is powering off their electronic devices an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that the glowing light from a cellphone or tablet can disrupt sleep cycles.
Get an annual physical
Keep your child’s medical and vaccination records up to date with an annual check up from the pediatrician.
“We won’t enroll any student without an immunization record,” says Candy Mac Donald, RN, PHN, MSN, school nurse for eight schools in the Marysville Joint United School District in Marysville, Calif., north of Sacramento. “There are more and more shots now, too,” she adds, including hepatitis B, chickenpox, and possibly a booster of the MMR in junior high (flu shots also may be recommended).
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) website fully explains childhood vaccinations, advising you what is needed at what age. Your school district or local health department will also make this clear, and you can consult your pediatrician as well. If you are in doubt, ask the school secretary for guidance.
When you go in for your child’s physical exam ask about getting a vision screening as well. Dr. Sarah Armstrong, director of Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles Clinic and an associate professor of Pediatrics and Community and Family Medicine said, “Having poor vision can sometimes go unnoticed. Kids might not say anything or know that something is amiss with their vision. If your child has to squint or strain to see the front of the classroom, it could show up as headaches during the day, poor school performance or even behavioral problems. Pediatricians can advise when a visit to a an optometrist or ophthalmologist is needed.”
Dental check ups
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions among children and results in a staggering number of missed school days. All kids should go to the dentist twice a year for routine cleanings to keep up with good oral hygiene. If your child is overdue, make an appointment before they start school so they won’t have to skip out on class later on.
Pack healthy lunches
Kids can develop unhealthy eating habits during summer break. Now is the perfect time to get them back into their regular routine of eating three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Check in with your child’s school to find out about lunch options and lunch schedules before the school year starts. Also, inform the school of any food allergies. Healthy eating will help your child before their best throughout the school year.
Lighten the backpack burden
With numerous textbooks and binders, the weight of your child’s backpack can put a strain on their neck, shoulders and back. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids always use both shoulder straps when wearing a backpack. “Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles,” the group states on its website. Discuss with their teachers ways to lighten the load, or if the school allows rolling backpacks.
Create a healthy study environment
Get your kids on a regular homework routine. Make sure it’s in an environment where they will be free from distractions like the TV or electronic devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests creating an environment in the home that is conducive to doing homework. “Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study,” the group advises.