With summer drawing to a close and the start of a new school year rapidly approaching (August 12th for Orange County!) preparations for the new year are in full swing. Lists are checked, schedules are planned, and both parents and children look forward to another year of learning, and growth. Amid all the arrangements be sure you give your family a healthy start to the year by including a few simple things in your back to school preparations.
Good sleep habits
Long summer days and lax schedules can throw our sleep habits out of whack, making it difficult to get back in the routine of getting up early and having a day full of activities. Sleep is one of the most important rhythms that our bodies follow. Our time in dream-land is when our bodies go to work, repairing injuries, building muscles, and creating new connections in our nervous system. It is even more important the younger we are. Pediatricians recommend that children age 6-12 get 9-12 hours of sleep and that teens get 8-10 hours a night. Here are some ways to help your student get the rest they need.
Limit caffeine intake. Your child should stop drinking any caffeinated beverages (soda, energy drinks, etc.) by around noon. This gives the stimulant plenty of time to work its way out of their system by bedtime (the effects of caffeine last from 4-6 hours).
Power down. The blue light emitted by our phones and televisions actually restrain the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls our sleep/wake cycle. The reduction of this hormone makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Powering down devices at least an hour before bedtime allows time for our brain to reset from the digital stimulation and can promote a deeper, more restful sleep.
Create the right environment. Winding down your child for bedtime can be especially challenging when it is still light outside. Consider room darkening shades to block out distracting light. A white noise machine can also be helpful in drowning out noises that may unnecessarily disturb your little sleeper. Finding the right pillow is crucial for a good night’s rest. Ask about our pediatric cervical pillow, a great way to counteract the daily posture habits of your child.
Get your young athletes physical exam
Most schools require an athletic exam for anyone participating in school sports. Unlike an annual wellness check-up, these exams have a more specific focus. Reviewing heart and lung health can provide an early indicator of any breathing or exertion issues. like asthma, that may worsen due to participation in athletic activities. Sports physicals also include a specific examination of bones and muscles to ensure the long term health of your athlete.
Dr. Koch is well versed in the world of youth athletics and provides sports physicals to many of our local students.
Fuel for success
When days get busy the rush for convenience can sometimes lead to less than healthy food choices. How we fuel young minds and bodies has a direct impact on their daily performance.
Dehydration clouds minds and lead to sluggishness. Sending your kids to school with one or two bottles of water (or better yet, a reusable bottle) is an easy option. Adding a squeeze of lemon boosts flavor.
The balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria in our gut is the key to a healthy immune system. Adding probiotics to your child’s daily routine not only helps digestion but can have positive effects on your child’s mood and their ability to get a good night’s rest.
Adding in healthy fats can positively affect attention, focus, and energy metabolism. Fish oil is an excellent source for the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (which is essential for brain and eye development). Salmon is a great source of DHA, as are avocados and many nuts and seeds.
Food is the only medicine we take every day and getting it all perfect every day can be daunting. We carry a whole line of pediatric probiotics and fish oils specially formulated for growing bodies. Dr. Koch would be happy to find the right supplements for your family.
“Fine” is not an answer.
Back to school stress takes its toll not only on us parents but on our children as well. The health risks associated with depression and anxiety are numerous and well documented. As any parent will undoubtedly know, trying to get the details of the day from your teen is like pulling teeth. Asking the question “How was school?” usually gets the response of a shrug or the non-answer of “Fine”. Try instead asking about specific classes, how they feel about their teachers or if they have made any new friends. Listen to all of the little things, if they feel they can talk about the little stuff then talking about the bigger stuff won't seem such a stretch. Kids won’t generally volunteer if they are being treated badly (or are treating others badly). If you suspect your child is the victim (or source) of bullying talk with their teachers to try to resolve the issue.
Lighten the load
Back to school means new books, pens, supplies, lunch kits, and items for all of the other activities your student is involved in. Meaning that carrying a backpack is pretty much a given. How a backpack is loaded and carried can affect your child’s health over the long school year. A few things to consider when getting ready for back to school:
A bigger backpack usually means it gets loaded with more. Choose a backpack that has just enough capacity for your daily needs.
A proper fit is essential to protecting your child’s health.The height of the backpack should be from the shoulder height (where the straps rest on the shoulders) to the waistline (the belly button) plus two inches. The width of the backpack should not be wider than the trunk and it should rest equally between the shoulder blades.
Firm padding in the straps and along the back of the backpack reduces the pressure placed on your child’s shoulders and spine. The straps should be wide, but not falling off the edge of the shoulders.
The use of a waist strap transfers the weight of the pack onto the hips as opposed to it all resting on the shoulders. The use of a chest strap helps prevent slouching.
Be mindful of the weight load. The American Physical therapy Association gives us the following guidelines for safe weight loads:
60 lb child should not have more than 5lbs.
60-75 lb individual can carry 5-10 lbs.
100 lb individual can carry 15 lbs.
125 lb individual can carry 18 lbs.
150 lb individual can carry 20 lbs.
200 lb individual can carry 25 lbs.
Other tips to remember
Heaviest items go at the bottom of the pack,
Pack the bag to be as flat as possible
Use BOTH shoulder straps, and the waist and chest straps as well.
Use a separate bag for after school activities.
Clean out the backpack regularly.
We provide a complimentary backpack fit check in our office, bring your student by and let Dr. Koch assist you in making sure your child’s backpack doesn’t become a pain in the neck.
Whether their interests are athletics or academics teaching your children healthy habits will serve them the rest of their lives. Call us at 407-423-1616 or visit essentialmb.com to see how we can help you and your child have a great school year.