Back to school is here again! Here are some tips to keep your kids happy and healthy for the start of the new school year.
• Establish a sleep routine
The National Sleep Foundation provides guidelines for the amount of sleep children should get at different ages. They suggest kids between the ages of 3 and 5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night; ages 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep; and teens 14 and older should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
Going back to school means an end to staying up late. To help your child transition back to waking up early. Start with going to bed one hour earlier every night and waking up early until the new routine is established. It needs to be done a week or two before going back to school, not the night before school starts.
Studies have shown that the glowing light from cellphone and tablet screens can disrupt sleep cycles, so make sure kids put electronic devices away well before bedtime.
• Get an annual physical
Annual checkups should be done by a pediatrician before each new school year to ensure that your child’s medical records and vaccinations are up to date.The American Academy of Pediatrics has a complete list of vaccination schedules, by age group, posted on its website.
Also, be sure to schedule your child for a sports physical so they can participate in sports because physicals are valid for one year. Your child won’t be able to participate in sports if that is not done.
• Eye exams
Vision screenings are typically done as part of a child’s physical exam, so parents should ask pediatricians about checking their children’s eyesight before school starts.
Having poor vision can sometimes go unnoticed. Kids might not say anything or know that something is amiss with their vision, she said. 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.
• Healthy eating
A lot of kids spend the summer eating differently, with fewer rules and more treats, but now’s the time to rein that in. Before the new school year starts, get your child back into the habit of eating three regular meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Check with your child’s school to find out about lunch options and meal schedules before the school year starts. Be sure and inform the school if your child has any food allergies.
Backpacks full of books and school supplies can put strain on your child’s neck, shoulders and back. In addition to getting a backpack strong enough to carry a heavy load, talk with teachers to see if there are ways to lighten the load.
Kids should always use both shoulder straps when wearing a backpack. Also, check with your school to see if they allow rolling backpacks, which may be a good option for students who have a lot to carry.
• Homework and study habits
Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study. It’s a good idea to schedule a regular time for homework so the child gets into the routine. Make sure that homework time is free from distractions like TV or other electronic devices.
If your child is struggling with a particular subject or can’t focus, discuss this with a teacher or school counselor to determine the best solution.