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Making The Grade: Transition Back Into School Routines Now
Having a routine is important in a child’s life and nothing provides that consistency better than a school year. But after a few months of summer vacation, children often need help getting back into the swing of things as a new school year approaches, said Paul Weber, MD, a pediatrician with The Pediatric Group in Troy.
Parents play a vital role in preparing their children as they transition from summer to school by establishing new habits and even reviewing certain old rules up to a week or two before the first day of school arrives. Perhaps two of the most important habits children can re-establish are an earlier bedtime and a realistic wake-up schedule, Dr. Weber said.
“It’s important to slowly adjust their bedtime as well as when they get up in the morning so that when the first day of school arrives it is not a shock to their system,” he said. “I actually recommend that during the summer parents help their children maintain a reasonable schedule so that their bodies are not experiencing extremes of waking and sleeping. This is particularly important for teenagers who regularly stay up past midnight and sleep until late morning.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation of America, school-age children should be getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Summertime affords children the opportunity to stay up later to enjoy the longer days because they have the opportunity to sleep later in the morning. Parents can help re-adjust that window of 10 to 12 hours by working with their children to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for about a week leading up to the start of school, Dr. Weber said.
A return to school also is a good time for parents to review safety issues with their children – especially when it comes to transportation.
“I tell my parents to determine how their child will get to school and allow the discussion to flow from that. So, if their child bikes to school then review why it is important to wear a helmet. Take time to map out the path the child will take and review any of the safety signs along that road,” Dr. Weber said. “If they are taking the bus they need to understand the importance of wearing the seatbelt, if available. Or if in a personal vehicle, make sure the child is in an age appropriate restraint.
A school routine also helps children set healthy eating standards again. Kids who purchase lunch at school are now served foods held to a higher standard. Those standards, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented in schools last year, provide children with increased fruits and vegetables and food choices with lower amounts of fat and sodium. Parents can help continue that at home by offering a healthy breakfast and avoiding processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
“This is especially important in this day and age when obesity among children has become a growing concern,” Dr. Weber said. “Parents can use what is modeled at school in the home to help children establish a healthy lifestyle that could stay with them throughout their lifetime.”
Back-to-school shopping often includes a new backpack or book bag. The American Academy of Pediatrics said that while a child’s focus might be on design and a parent’s concern might be price, the ultimate goal should be a child’s wellbeing. It is recommended by the American Society of Orthopedics that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of their weight.
“That’s not a lot when you consider how much school-age children weigh,” Dr. Weber said. “Children need to be taught how to properly pack their backpack so that that weight is distributed evenly. Heavier items like large textbooks should be placed closest to their back with smaller items away from them.”
Last, but certainly not least, Dr. Weber encourages all parents to make sure that their child is up to date on immunizations. More often than not, a disease outbreak – such as the measles and mumps outbreaks in central Ohio this past spring – involves individuals who were never vaccinated.
“As far as school and safety is concerned, this is the single most important step a parent can take to prepare their child to return to school healthy,” Dr. Weber said.
To learn more about pediatric health, or to find a pediatrician or primary care physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.
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