Back-to-School Tips from NOCHS’ Pediatric Office

Getting your kids ready to return to school is a process. It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping and scheduling changes necessitated by school. However, there are some other really important things you can do to help your child prepare for those first few weeks in the classroom.

• Set a pre-bedtime routine that eliminates all screen viewing for one hour before bed. That includes TV, phone, tablet, and any other electronic device. Blue screens inhibit a child’s ability to wind down and go to sleep, so that the last hour before bed should be spent reading a book or taking a bath. This helps establish a calming routine that will help children fall asleep more easily.

• Make sure kids get enough sleep. We all know that young children need a lot of sleep, and teens are no different. Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep each night. That’s hard to do, but it’s very important. Teenagers cannot function effectively on six hours of sleep per night.

• Think about food and water during the day. Parents should know what is being offered in the cafeteria (if there is one) and help their children learn to make healthy food choices. If the school does not have a cafeteria, have your child help pack his or her own lunch, so you both know what’s in it and why. It’s also a great idea for kids to have a water bottle at all times, so they can stay hydrated. Water is much better for them during the day than soda or even juice.

• Pick a backpack for its function as much as its style. It seems like children’s backpacks are getting heavier every year! A good backpack should have two straps and a padded back. Try to help them pack as lightly as possible. If weight is getting to be an issue, consider a rolling backpack as kids get older.

• Back to school is a transition, especially for children who are starting at a new school. They might be nervous, even if they don’t express it. Make sure you take time to talk about how they are feeling. Make a trip to the school to find out where lockers and classrooms are located, so that kids know where they are going. This eases a lot of the first-day nerves.

• Be ready for the school germs. Children in preschool or kindergarten are especially vulnerable to all the germs they encounter during their first year of school. Don’t be surprised if your child is sick 8-10 times during the school year. Having a cold is actually not bad for your child. It strengthens his or her immune system. Just keep them hydrated with a drink that includes electrolytes, and treat their discomfort with Tylenol or ibuprofen as needed.

If you have questions about school readiness or helping your child prepare for the new school year, please contact the NOCHS’ Pediatric Office at (616) 844-4523.

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