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Healthy You

6 Back to School Tips for Parents

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 11:00 AM

Summer is reaching its end, and many parents are still finding themselves with questions about the upcoming school year. Lindsay Uzunlar, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, answers six common questions to help prepare parents for what's ahead.

Back to School

I'm nervous about how much stuff my kid needs to carry in their backpack to and from school per day. Any tips?

It's easy to spot symptoms of a load that's too hefty for your child. If kids grunt when putting on or taking off the backpack, have red marks on their shoulders from the straps, or if they complain that their shoulders, arms or fingers are "falling asleep," those packs might just be too heavy.

When choosing a proper backpack, make sure it fits your kid securely. Stress to your children to use waist straps – this will alleviate the weight that is carried on the hip bones, rather than on the shoulders.

My child 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?

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.

I’ve been struggling to get my 7-year-old up and moving in the mornings. Is there any way I can make this easier for him?

The first way to help is to make sure that he goes to bed early the night before. Children between six 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.

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.

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 crossguard (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, two is better than one.

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.

First of all, make sure that you include fruits/veggies AND a protein (preferably a meat but if she is a vegetarian then cheese/yogurt). Giving her 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.

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.

The best snacks include fruit and veggies. If your child isn't lactose intolerant, string cheese is delicious and fun!

You can learn more about health and nutrition for kids through NorthShore’s Pediatrics department.

Find more back to school tips from Dr. Uzunlar in our Back to School Basics chat.