Dr. Zach’s Back to School Health Tips 2018
by Dr. Zach
Back to school is a busy and stressful time for both kids and parents. It takes some time to get back into the school rhythm. Start preparing yourself and your kids for school early, so you are ready for day one.
Top 5 Back to School Health Tips:
Extra – checkups/vaccines, transportation safety
Get sleep schedules back on track. Good sleep is essential for growth and optimal school performance, as well as mood and energy level. In summer sleep schedules may shift and be less regular. Get ready for school by getting back in the habit of going to sleep at a decent hour and waking up early enough to get to school (if they’re sleeping until 11am they won’t fall asleep at 9pm). Kids between the ages of 3 and 5 should 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. Avoid caffeine and stimulation at bedtime.
Pay attention to diet. Start the day right with a healthy breakfast. Model healthy eating. Don’t use food as a reward. Limit added sugars. Have fruit, not juice. Healthy snack. Balanced diet. Brown>white (for pasta, bread, rice). This will help maintain energy level and avoid post-sugary-binge crash.
Encourage breakfast, fruit, fibre, vegetables, protein.
Healthy eating in childhood sets good habits that kids will carry with them for life, hopefully protecting them from illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
Get backpacks that fit well and make sure they aren’t carrying too much weight. Kids carry more and more books as they get older, often more than they should. International guidelines says children should carry no more than 10-15% of their bodyweight. Girls are often smaller than boys, but carry the same weight of books and homework. Recent research showed that 31% of boys carried overly heavy bags, compared to nearly 42% of girls. The further one walks, and the less well-fitting the bag, the more pain it can cause. So get a well-fitting bag, wide, with padded shoulder straps and a padded back, use both shoulder straps, and limit the weight of the bag, but keep on walking because it’s healthy. Consider a rolling bag if there is no option but to carry a heavy load, if allowed by your school. Back, neck, shoulder pain. Those who experience it in childhood are more likely to experience it as an adult. See more backpack recommendations below.
Phones and digital devices — if your kids have them there need to be limits on how much and what they use them for. There are rising rates of loneliness, anxiety, and depression in youth. Cell phones and screens aren’t clearly causing this, but they aren’t helping either (see article below).
Need to talk to your kids about using their phones responsibly.
Some use is ok, and there is peer pressure to play games with their friends, but remember it is not really being with other people. And if they’re on their phones they are not outside running around, or really interacting, or reading, or creating.
Talk to them about safety from online content and from other people online. Consider a program to limit their use and limit which sites they can access.
See cell phone rules, below.
Talk to your kids about what you worry about and what they are worried about. For example, bullying, strangers, what to do in case of emergency. Open the door for them to talk to you.
Kids can sense parental anxiety and it can make them more anxious.
Back to school Anxiety and Worries: having friends, fitting in, clothes, teacher, schoolwork, bullying.
This may manifest as physical symptoms (abdominal pain, headache)
It’s crucial that they attend so as not to enforce avoidance and not to make things worse. Most feel better once things begin. At school they learn not only schoolwork but also social skills, a chance to learn and master new skills, for success and mastery, to make friends.
Strategies to help – tired and hungry kids deal with stress less well. Good sleep and eating routines, healthy snacks.
Encourage them to talk. It is normal to be anxious — everyone is.
Work together on problem solving strategies
Talk about what they’re looking forward to
Involve the teacher if necessary
Kids should have some extracurricular activities including physical activity, which helps combat anxiety and depression. This will also teach them life lessons about balance.
Take advantage of the time to get regular check-ups with the doctor, dentist, and optometrist. And get vaccines updated. Most of us are lucky enough to never have witnessed the devastating effects of the illnesses that we now prevent with vaccines. Examples include polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccines are covered at your local CLSC.
Also, teach them good hygiene — wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer after using the restroom, after touching shared surfaces, avoid bringing dirty hands to eyes, nose, or mouth.
Other things to think about:
Review transportation safety — street crossing, car/bus/bike/walking safety
Homework – regular routine
Physical activity is important
Other than a reasonable weight, other things to consider when choosing and using a backpack:
If your child has a growth spurt, reassess the bag to make sure it still fits and is not too short or small. For some kids, especially older ones who have to lug heavy books, a rolling backpack may be more appropriate.
Using a Backpack Properly
Choosing the best backpack will go only so far in preventing injury and pain; kids also need to use it correctly:
Some straps may loosen over time. When you first fit them, indicate with a permanent marker where the straps should be and then check them every couple of weeks to see if they need to be readjusted.
Cell phone rules from ahaparenting.com
Depression does seem to be increasing in youth but no clear evidence that smart phones are fuelling this trend. They probably aren’t helping though. http://fortune.com/2018/04/06/teens-youths-mental-health-smartphones-addicted/