As summer winds to a close and parents prepare their children to return to a regular routine of packed lunches and homework, experts from The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore highlight ways to ease anxiety, keep kids healthy and improve concentration in the classroom.
“It’s important that parents and children properly prepare for the new school year,” said Neal Hoffman, M.D., Medical Director of the Montefiore School Health Program and associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. “To ensure the best academic performance, kids need to be in good physical and mental health. So before going back to school, we advise parents take their children for a regular check-up with their pediatrician.”
Here is some advice from Montefiore clinicians on how to achieve a happy, healthy return to school.
- During summer, children usually go to bed later and wake up at different times. When it’s time to go back to school, kids may find it difficult to adjust their sleep schedule. To establish a consistent sleep pattern:
- Maintain a steady sleep-wake schedule seven days a week. No catching up on the weekends!
- Make sure each step of the bedtime routine slowly moves closer and closer to the bed (e.g. bath, brush teeth, then into the bedroom for PJs, book and finally sleep).
- Maintain a healthy diet. Kids’ diets often change over the summer, so limit sugar, chocolate and soda – especially after lunch time.
- Limit the use of electronics and refrain from doing school work within an hour of bedtime.
- The start of a new school season is the best time to have your child’s eyes examined. Some signs that a child may be having vision problems include sitting close to the TV, holding toys close to the eyes or squinting to see at a distance. Covering or closing one eye to see also may indicate a need for glasses. If mom or dad wore glasses at an early age, it would not be unusual for their child to need glasses as well.
- A nutritious lunch that’s tasty and satisfying is a welcome midday break for kids and gives them energy to get through the rest of the day. Even for the pickiest of eaters, parents can find the right nutritional balance for their kids and help them adopt good eating habits that can last a lifetime.
- Presentation is key – we eat with our eyes first, so make sure food looks appetizing.
- Variety is the spice of life – try switching the healthy foods you pack for kids and rotate between favorite foods to keep them excited.
- Involve your kids in preparing meals – let them decide what to make for lunch and prepare it with you.
- Include notes in your child’s lunch box to inspire and motivate them.
- Children and teens are often anxious about going back to school. Anxiety can be a result of a transition from elementary to middle school, or social or academic challenges. It’s important that parents talk to their kids about any worries or concerns so they can be quickly addressed and resolved. Seek professional help if necessary.
- Bullying can impact the well-being of children and have serious long-term consequences. If parents notice a difference in a child’s mood, a hesitancy to want to leave home or take part in social activities, they should speak with their child to see if there is a serious reason behind the change in behavior. Parents also need to be aware that cyber-bullying is affecting younger age groups, since more children have mobile phones and computer access.
- Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in athletes. Pediatricians recommend that every child have an annual physical prior to participating in strenuous exercise or competitive sports to prevent sudden cardiac death on the playing fields.