As fall approaches, many of our patients ask us what they can do to ensure that their child has a good start to the school year. To help you prepare for your child’s first day, we asked a local pediatrician, Dr. Charles S. Brown of Newton-Wellesley Family Pediatrics, who is also a father of six, to share his tips for keeping your child healthy and getting them ready for the return to school.
Start the Day off Right
You’ve likely heard by now that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there’s a reason for that. This is easy to forget though when kids are in a rush to catch the bus and beat the first bell of the day. And even when we do remember, “breakfast” is often a quick bowl of sugary cereal or another sweet treat. Loading up on sugar in the morning, however, will only lead to a crash later in the day. Consider instead a healthier alternative, such as oatmeal or Greek yogurt, both of which are filling and easy to prepare. Remember that nourishing and protein-packed foods will help keep your child energized so they can focus throughout the day.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Sleep can become irregular during summer vacation. While staying up late and sleeping in can be a nice treat, it can make for a tough transition when school starts up again. In a perfect world, we would stick to the same sleep schedule year-round. That is a tall order, so Dr. Brown instead recommends “getting back into routine at least two weeks before school begins.” Practice waking up your child when they would usually get up for school, and set a reasonable hour for bedtime. While the first day of school can be exciting, it can also be nerve-wracking and stressful. A good night’s sleep will help ease these feelings, so your child can enjoy their time in the classroom.
While the weather is still nice, encourage your child to spend some of their after-school hours outside. Whether they join a sports team, or opt to even go walk the dog around the neighborhood, getting some fresh air and exercise is important to their overall health and development. Kids spend the majority of their days sitting inside the classroom, meaning they’re due for some after-school outdoor activities to give the brain a break and get moving. Keep this in mind next time your child asks to turn on the TV.
Limit Time Online
Social media, while it’s great for many reasons, can also become a distraction in and outside of the classroom. Even adults can sometimes be guilty of this distraction. When it comes to homework and dinner time, encourage your child to put away their devices so that they can focus, and you can enjoy some technology-free time with your family. When your child is on social media, remind them to be careful of what they post and share with their peers. What we post online doesn’t just go away when we press “delete,” and what we say in the cyber world can easily impact our real lives if we aren’t careful.
Get Ahead of the Flu
Many students catch a cold once school is back in session, which is in part due to the free exchange of bacteria and viruses in the classroom. Before we know it, we’ve reached the late fall and flu season is officially underway. “A lot of people don’t realize that the flu vaccine actually becomes available in August, meaning you can get a head start and protect your child as early as this month,” says Dr. Brown. Remember that even perfectly healthy children are at risk of getting the flu and that the vaccination will keep not only your child healthy, but help decrease the risk of it spreading to others in the classroom. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician to ensure your child has received all the vaccines they need before the school year begins.
Planning ahead for the school year will help to ensure a soft landing for your student making this important transition.
Saad and Raied Dinno, brothers, are registered pharmacists and co-owners of Acton Pharmacy, Keyes Drug in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy.