by Pediatrician, LaKesha Davison, MD
Are you and your children ready for another school year? Here are 5 tips for a smooth transition:
1. See your pediatrician. If you haven’t already had your child’s annual exam, now is a perfect time to do so. Your child will be screened for obesity, learning disorders, vision problems and several other common problems. Teenagers will also be screened for depression, anemia and scoliosis and can be screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Your pediatrician will be able to fill out any forms needed for school at this time. Health is wealth and your child may have trouble performing well in school if his or her health care needs are not being addressed.
2. Insist on participation in organized activities. Several studies have shown that children and teens who play sports have higher self-esteem and lower rates of obesity. This is especially true for girls, with the additional benefit of lower rates of teenage pregnancy. If your child can not participate in sports, or has other interests, encourage him or her to work on the school yearbook committee, or debate club, or band or chorus. These all provide a sense of achievement for the children and teach them about responsibility to others. These activities also decrease idle time, which is the time when trouble finds kids.
3. Decrease screen time. Children should have two hours or less of screen time once they get home. This includes tablets, TV, smart phones and computers. Their time should be spent interacting with siblings and parents, active play, reading, eating as a family and sleeping. Children in middle school and high school may need to use the computer for school work, but afterwards, they should take a break from the screen as well. Children who have difficulty falling asleep and are hard to wake up in the morning should not be allowed to take electronic devices to bed. These gadgets often stimulate the children and keep them awake instead of helping them to wind down in preparation for bedtime.
4. Encourage healthy habits. Limit sugary drinks, including juice, to less than 8 ounces a day. Encourage your children to drink water. Remind your children to wash hands after using the bathroom, even if they just went “number 1”. Your children should also wash hands after touching their mouths, after sneezing, and after using school computers. If they can’t get to a sink, pack hand sanitizer in their backpacks to help reduce the spread of germs. The beginning of the school year is when we see a huge number of outbreaks of strep throat, colds, stomach flu and other infections.
5. Be Nosey. This may be the most important thing you can do for your children. They should expect you to know about almost everything in their lives. Ask questions about what they learned in school, about what homework they have, about their friends’ names, about their favorite teacher, about how they feel about their body’s changes as they go through puberty and more. You should also know how they spend their free time and time between classes. There are several dangerous games that kids are playing, including lighting themselves on fire and hyperventilating until they pass out. Middle schoolers are especially at-risk as they are trying to learn some independence but lack insight. This is also the time that many children are first exposed to drugs, alcohol and sexual images/conversation. If your child knows that you are aware of or will quickly find out what they are up to, they are less likely to engage in dangerous activities. In addition, if your children know that you are interested in their lives, they are more likely to talk with you before making important decisions such as whether to use drugs, when to engage in sexual activity and what they will do with their lives after graduation. You will be your child’s greatest advocate. Your children might not realize it, but they need you. Don’t let mood swings or perceived disinterest dissuade you from giving them the attention they require to help them successfully navigate the challenges of obtaining their high school diploma. Always remember that your pediatrician is around to help you through this time as well. Good luck!
LaKesha M. Davison, MD, FAAP
Decatur Pediatric Group, PA
Information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical consultation or serve as a substitute for medical advice provided by a physician or qualified medical professional.