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By Bonnie Stabrawa, MD
It’s July — time to think about back-to-school!
Why are we even talking about school when there’s so much summer left to enjoy? Because parents can use the summer to prepare for the fall without the pressure of last-minute decisions.
Besides school supply shopping, there are some things parents should do in the summer to make sure their child will be at their best when school starts.
Summer is a good time to take care of your child’s annual wellness visit. And while you’re there, ask about a sports physical for your young athlete.
Well child visits are essential annual appointments. Physicians track your child’s growth, make sure they’re up to date on immunizations and even talk about their behavioral milestones and emotional health. Annual visits also create a medical history that shows their growth and development over time.
The sports physical is an additional brief exam that ensures your child can safely participate in athletics. Many schools require a form signed by a physician confirming they’re healthy enough to play.
Schedule this visit in the summer, before school and fall activities begin.
Make sleep a priority. A good night’s sleep is essential for a productive school day and a healthy kid.
Even in the summer, when schedules tend to blur, try to make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Children aged 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep each night, while teens aged 13-18 need 8-10 hours.
Figure out what time they need to get up in the morning and count backward to determine what time they should go to bed.
Before school begins, start following the school year sleep and wake schedule to get them back on track. A bedtime routine will help you avoid arguments over going to bed and waking up.
Summer has a way of loosening everything, from routines and obligations to our focus on nutrition. But good nutrition is important for kids, especially when they’re busy with school and activities.
Use the summer to plan healthy lunches and snacks. You could ask your kids to give you a list of healthy foods they enjoy (not processed) and use it to come up with lunch and dinner ideas.
As much as possible, try to eat as a family at the dinner table. Even better, cook together. This is a great opportunity to spend time with each other without distractions.
As kids get older, their backpacks get heavier.
Even young kids are trying to haul a good amount of material to school each day, and a heavy backpack could put kids at risk of back, shoulder and neck pain, poor posture and a higher risk of falling.
Make sure a child’s backpack only weighs 10-15 percent of their body weight. Choose a backpack with a padded back and wide, padded shoulder straps. Encourage your child to use both straps to distribute the load evenly.
Walking and biking are great activities for kids, even better if that’s how they get to school. Be sure to review pedestrian safety with your kids first.
Children younger than 10 shouldn’t walk to school alone. Use the time walking with them to hold their hand while teaching them about looking both ways and how traffic signals work.
Consider the safety of the route and the maturity level of your tweens and teens before sending them off to school on foot or bicycle. Make sure they know not to use their cell phones while walking or riding. Find reflective items to put on their bags and jackets.
Put this one on your personal checklist, parents. Preparing for a new school year can be time consuming, especially if you have work or other obligations at the same time.
Make time for yourself. Set regular date nights with your partner. Take a warm bath, get a manicure or massage, take a yoga class or go shopping — whatever recharges you and helps you de-stress.
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