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Healthy You

Back to School Basics

August 21, 2015 11:59 AM with Dr Lindsay Uzunlar

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The kids are heading back to school, and the list of to-dos can seem endless. Many parents are still looking for the answers. Lindsay Uzunlar, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore is here to help with tips on many common concerns parents have once the school year starts again including sleeping habits, nutrition, exercise and screen time. Submit your questions today.

  Kathryn (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
Our back to school chat is starting now. You can submit questions now or at any point during the chat.

Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore) - 12:00 PM:
Hi Everyone! I hope that if you have started school already, everything is going as planned. If not I am here to help! For those of you who haven't started school yet, I am here to help you plan and get ready.

  Alison (Chicago) - 12:00 PM:
Can starting high school later for students really make a difference with their sleeping habits? My son is a junior and he never seems to get more than 5-6 hours a sleep at night. He seems to make up the time some on weekends by sleeping in late, but I'm not convinced a later start will matter as he'll likely just go to bed later.
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
Great question. The short answer is that it depends on your son. There is a lot of push from sleep proponents to start school later as this has been shown to help with sleep. However a lot will depend on teenagers. The problem is that with after school activities and homework, bedtime just seems to get pushed to later. So in the end, if school start time does end up getting pushed to later, it will be the responsiblity of the teens and parents to use that time to their advantage.

  Kate (Northbrook) - 12:08 PM:
My little girl gets stressed out pretty easily, and now that she’s entering middle school, I’m nervous that she’ll have a tough time. Are there any tips I can give her in case she panics?
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
This can be a very stressful time for kids and transitioning to a new school is even harder. There are a couple of things that you can do to help: 1. If you haven't already, take a tour of the school to see the exact classrooms where she will be sitting. If you can, literally walk through her day with her to show her where she will be going and where her locker is. 2. Set expectations in terms of where you will be to pick her up/drop her off. 3. In a fun setting (perhaps with some mom/daughter alone time if possible), sit down and discuss possible scenarios that might make her nervous and ways to overcome those difficulties. 4. Most of all, enjoy the excitement of starting school.

  Jen (Andersonville) - 12:21 PM:
What are some good mid-day snack options? I want to make sure I’m not giving my child junk food to take to class.
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
The best snacks include fruit and veggies. If you're child isn't milk allergic or lactose intolerant, string cheese is delicious and fun!

  Sarah (Chicago) - 12:25 PM:
Can you give me some tips to tell my children about walking to school? We’re in a good neighborhood, but I still want to be cautious.
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
Living in the city, there are a couple of things that you want to focus on: 1. Traffic safety. Teach/review with your kids the basics of road safety. Even if there is a cross guard (as there likely is), it never hurts to go over this 2. Stranger safety Depending on the age of your children this may or may not be as big of an issue. However it's important to give your kids strategies ahead of time regarding this. 3. Walk with a friend. In cases such as this, 2 is better than 1.

  Delanie (Edwardsville) - 12:32 PM:
When do you think is the appropriate time to start talking about puberty? My 13 year old daughter is starting to develop, and I know it’s painful and been a little embarrassing for her. I’m scared that I’ll make her more uncomfortable when talking about it.
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
Yes, this is a big question for every parent. I think this sounds like a good time to talk to her about puberty. There is a great book for girls 8 and up called, "The Care and Keeping of You." It's very helpful. I would highly recommend it. I think a great strategy would be to give her the book with "the talk." Then after she has read it, you could discuss any questions she might have. Unfortunately having "the talk" is always a little uncomfortable for both sides. But it's important to give her that information so that she knows that everything is normal.

  Geoff (Joliet) - 12:44 PM:
I’ve been struggling to get my 7 year old up and moving in the mornings (he’s never liked to get up early). Is there any way I can make this easier for him?
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
The first way to help is to make sure that he goes to be early the night before. Children between 6 and 13 should be getting between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Secondly, trying to let the sunlight in early will help a lot as it stimulates the body to wake up. Lastly try to get everything together and done the night before. This includes bathing and setting out clothes for the next day.

  Lara (Bolingbrook) - 12:53 PM:
Do you have any recommendations when it comes to packing a lunch? I have a little one starting elementary school, and I’m feeling a little lost when it comes to how much to give her. I've seen some cute boxes and containers online, and am wondering if these will help.
Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore)
First of all, make sure that you include fruits/veggies AND a protein (preferably a meat but if she is a vegetarian then cheese/yoghurt). Giving her some some carbs such as bread in a sandwich or baked chips is great as well but try to limit it to one portion. Too many carbs could make her sleepy in the afternoons. As for portions, it really depends on how much she normally eats and/or what your pediatrician has recommended. There are definitely some great boxes etc that you can find to help guide you with this.

  Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:02 PM:
This will be the end of our chat today. Thank you everyone for your questions.

Dr Lindsay Uzunlar (NorthShore) - 1:05 PM:
Thank you to everyone for your great questions! Good luck with the school year! The NorthShore pediatricians are always happy to help should you have any further questions or worries.

  Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:09 PM:
For more information on childhood development, nutrition, and health, visit Our Pediatrics page.

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