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An annual checkup is often required for participation in school sports, and provides a way to monitor your child’s growth and development.
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By Kerry Van Voorhis, MD
It’s back to school time and that means parents are busy buying school supplies and new clothes for their kids. It’s also a time for parents to instill in their children healthy habits that will help set the tone for a successful school year.
Get your ZZZs
Help your child to wake up early for a few days before school starts to help him transition to the school schedule. Children need the right amount of sleep for their age. Children age 5 to10 years old typically need 10 to 11 hours, while older children and teens need 8.5-9.5 hours. High quality sleep often requires removing electronics (TV, computer, phone, MP3) from the bedroom. Maintaining a relatively consistent bedtime and wake time seven days per week is optimal.
Nourish body and mind
Ensure that your child has healthy snacks and meals to maintain energy and concentration throughout the day. Healthy snacks include fresh fruit, nuts and cheese. Don’t skip breakfast, and limit access to junk foods and beverages. Children can help pack their lunch starting in kindergarten. Parents should check the lunchbox before the child leaves for school and when they return. Ask your child what they ate at the school cafeteria on days when they buy lunch.
Work in a workout
While generally promoted for positive effects on children’s bodies, studies reliably show that regular exercise is also associated with improved academic performance. Thirty to 60 minutes per day is recommended.
Organize - don't overload
Reestablish your child’s schedule and expectations for a healthy, sustainable weekly routine. Be realistic about how many activities the child and family can enjoy without overload.
Partner with your child to establish protected time for homework and chores that won’t interfere with sleep. Select a spot to store backpacks, lunchboxes and important notices sent home from school. Teach children to pack lunches and select clothes the night before.
Engage after school
Set a goal of taking a family walk or having a sit-down dinner at least three evenings per week. In addition to providing regular time for family communication, problem solving and encouragement, research indicates this habit is associated with lower rates of obesity, depression, substance abuse and disordered eating. Questions that children and parents might want to answer include:
- Best and hardest parts of the day
- Most interesting thing you learned
- Relationships with friends and teachers
- How someone helped you or you helped someone else
Celebrate with your child the beginning of a new year of learning and growth. Take your child to her new school before the first day of classes to help her learn the layout. Make plans to attend open house, and send a brief note to teachers to share that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school.
Dr. Van Voorhis is a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic.