The kids are back in school and already busy with homework, classes and practice. Don't let hectic schedules put your children’s health in detention. Parents can do plenty to help their children stay healthy and succeed in school—from
ensuring they get adequate sleep and regular exercise to serving up balanced meals and more. After all, children’s health has been shown to be directly linked to success in school.
infographic explores the connection between children’s health and academic performance with health information and tips from the experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem. Click on the image below to see the full infographic.
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Hot dogs, pizza, tater tots, chicken nuggets, ketchup and bagged chips – these high-fat, high-sodium and low-fiber
foods are made available every day in some schools across the country. With over one-third of American children overweight or obese, it’s little wonder First Lady Michelle Obama has made improving standards for school lunches a focus. And improvements are
happening, but packed lunches are still a great way to help your children keep calories and fat under control, as well provide the essential nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Kimberly Hammon, Dietitian at NorthShore, shares some healthy lunch tips for how to include essential nutrients – vitamin D, calcium, fiber and potassium – into your kid’s packed lunch:
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various cancers, including colon and breast, heart disease and depression. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium to maximize bone growth and strength.
What to pack?
Calcium: Calcium is an essential nutrient that helps build strong bones, but it also can help with heart rhythm, blood clotting and muscle function.
Fiber: Fiber can help prevent type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. It also helps tummies feel fuller longer.
Potassium: Potassium-rich diets promote heart and muscle function, maintain fluid balance, energize and help build strong bones.
What do you pack to provide a healthy lunch for your kids?
Nervousness on the first day of school is perfectly normal both for parents and young students. New routines, new people, new information: it’s a time of transition. But “transition” doesn’t have to be a bad word.
Nancy Zinaman, LCSW, shares some simple back-to-school preparation tips that will make the first day easier on the entire family:
For kindergartners try not to make the first day over emotional. If parents are anxious they need to be aware of their own feelings so as not to make their children more nervous.
Children who have made a smooth transition into preschool may have a harder time transitioning into Kindergarten. You can help make this transition easier by playing on the school playground with your child before classes begin. Visit the school when it
is empty or schedule a tour. If time allows, visit or arrange a one-on-one meeting with the teacher and staff. Familiar faces and places will make the first day so much easier.
For children with special needs it’s important for parents to connect with teachers prior to the first day of class to make sure they are aware of separation anxiety, ADHD or any other family challenges
Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher. Ask your child’s teacher what he or she would prefer: email, phone, etc. This will foster a positive, productive relationship from the start.
Prepare for the new routine early. Don’t wait until the first day to start implementing your new routine. Put the school day structure in place one or two weeks before: establish a back-to-school bedtime; get up early; give kids a fun school-day
task like packing their own lunch or backpack. Don’t over-schedule after school activities the first couple of weeks because your children will be tired after a long day of school.
Talk to your children. Find out how your children really feel about starting a new school year. Is there something in particular that is causing nervousness or dread? Give yourself time to address it or talk to the school about it if it’s
something the school can address. Let your children know their feelings are normal and that they are not alone.
How does your family prepare for the first day of school?
Today, bullying doesn’t necessarily stop once your child walks through the front door. Cyberbullying, an extension
of traditional bullying, uses electronic technology and communication mediums—from emails and texts, to messages on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—to send threatening and insulting messages anytime and anywhere. How do you protect your child
when the threats are happening online? What is the role and responsibility of the school when bullying is happening both on and off school grounds? How do you know when it’s happening to your child?
Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, Child-Adolescent Psychiatry, answers questions on cyberbullying and bullying to help parents and teachers
find the best and most effective ways to protect kids:
How is bullying defined?
Bullying has been defined as having three elements: aggressive or deliberately harmful behavior 1) between peers that is 2) repeated and spans a length of time and 3) involves an imbalance of power, (e.g., related to physical strength or popularity), making
it difficult for the victim to defend himself or herself. Bullying behavior falls into four categories: 1) direct-physical (e.g., assault, theft), 2) direct-verbal (e.g., threats, insults, name-calling), 3) indirect-relational (e.g., social exclusion, spreading
rumors), and 4) cyber. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States indicated that during the 12 months before the survey, 22.0% of girls and 18.2% of boys were bullied on school property, 22.1% of girls and 10.8%
of boys were electronically bullied, and 6.0% of girls and 5.8% of boys did not go to school one day in the past 30 because they felt unsafe at school or on the way to or from school.
How can you tell the difference between a joke and cyberbullying? When should you be concerned? When should you get the other parents involved?
Note the definition of bullying in the above question. Look for repeated aggressive or harmful behaviors involving an imbalance of power. That said, there is little you can do to monitor without being highly intrusive. Some teens need this but most do not.
What is the best way for schools to handle cyberbullying when they find out about it? Is it different from the way they would or should handle regular bullying?
There is little difference in consequence between cyberbullying and the face-to-face variety. Schools are in a unique position to intervene. Parents are limited in what they can do and most bullying does not meet the threshold for legal involvement. My belief
is that schools should handle all bullying as bullying.
How does a parent’s use of computers impact children? How can we set healthy examples that could contribute to less negative, and potentially bullying, situations?
Children learn more by example than what we tell them. I don't think we can have rules that apply to all (e.g., limit screens to X hours per day) as there is wide variation in needs and abilities of both parents and children. However, parents should consider
rules when usage becomes excessive (e.g., seems to limit other activities) and redirection is not effective. How to handle bullying (as both victim and bully) can be modeled by example, as well, with parents talking about how they handle electronic situations
as they arise.
How closely should you watch the way your kids use Facebook and their phone? Is it going too far to ask to see messages they send and receive?
Think of how you supervise kids in face-to-face interaction. Most kids navigate going to and from school and participating in class with some, but very limited, parental supervision. Some kids need much more supervision. Electronic situations are something
that parents can supervise much more closely, as they are often with the child, or at least in the same house, when the communication occurs. Nonetheless, even if monitoring could be done (children will find ways to circumvent even the strictest supervision),
children view supervision as highly intrusive. In addition, studies have shown that electronic communication is used heavily by children for support, which means close monitoring interferes with the support they are receiving from friends and peers. So, yes,
for most children, it’s not recommended to ask to view all electronic communication.
Is it safer for kids not to have access to cell phones or social media?
For most kids, electronic communication is not only the way they stay "in the loop" with their friends, but it is also the main way that they obtain social support. Taking this away protects them (and sometimes that is necessary) but it also denies
them avenues for normal social and emotional development.
If your child is on the receiving end of a cyberbully’s attentions, how should they respond? When should they seek an authority figure's help?
First thing is to encourage them to bring in a parent for advice. I can’t emphasize enough, though, that I mean advice and not control. As soon parents clamp down on communication or take unwanted action, the child will stop communicating with them.
An authority figure is useful when the actions are repeated and damaging.
What signs of bullying should a parent look for if a child is unwilling to communicate about what is going on inside or outside of school?
First, be patient. You may need to wait but typically waiting patiently and being there for support works faster than putting pressure on a child to communicate when they clearly do not want to. Second, look for signs of depression: overt sadness, angering
more easily, isolating more, declining grades, less interest in seeing friends and other activities that had been considered fun. Some of this, such as self-imposed isolation, you may see as a consequence of normal development. However, when it is sudden,
or combined with other problems, consider a mental health evaluation.
Why do the bullied often become bullies?
Kids are commonly both bullies and victims. Unfortunately, being a victim may teach children that imposing one’s power on another is important, which predisposes them to becoming a bully. As a parent, if you encounter this, talk to your child about his/her
behavior and consider a mental health evaluation if the behavior persists.
If you do discover your child is being bullied, online or off, should you talk to your children and the parents of the other children involved before getting the school involved? Should the schools be told right away?
For a bullying victim, being a victim is highly embarrassing in and of itself. First, consider interventions that are less of a "deal," as long as they are effective at stopping the bullying. On the other hand, bullying involving threats or encouraging
a child to commit suicide should be brought to the attention of the authorities immediately.
Does your child communicate with his or her friends online? How closely do you monitor activity?
Gearing up for school often involves more than just prepping for the classroom and after-school routine. While the roads may seem a little less trafficked in the summer months with no more school drop off and carpooling schedules, as the new year starts
it’s important to refresh our minds about street safety.
Jacque Quick, RN, gives some quick reminders for drivers for keeping you, your kids and others safe on the road:
She also reminds kids to be safe by making sure to:
What safety tips do you remind your kids of before returning to school?
Summer vacation is here! While it may seem early, it’s often best to get your child’s required physical and immunizations
scheduled and completed before it gets too close to class being back in session. This way your kids can have all appropriate screening and their vaccines updated so they are kept safe from illness and don’t infect others.
Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, gives parents some tips on preparing for back-to-school shots: (Please note this is just a sample list of vaccines needed. Please
refer to your office guidelines for shots).
Booster doses of several of these occur between 12 and 18 months and then again between ages 4 -6 years. Influenza vaccines are yearly beginning at 6 months of age.
Most kids don’t like being pricked by needles or look forward to getting shots. Dr. Fox gives some advice on how to ease the pain of getting shots:
When do you usually schedule your child’s back-to-school appointments? Do you have any tips to help with shots?
For more information, visit the
Illinois Department of Public Health, Immunization Program website.