- - Friday, August 5, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

It is that time of the year when back-to-school beckons to millions of families nationwide, raising stress levels with increased activities and jitters as schools and colleges welcome record numbers of students.

For both parents and kids, there are commitments with end-of-summer events, last minute getaways, shopping for “the right” supplies and clothes, start-up of extracurricular activities, and too the emotional anxiety that often comes with changes with sleep times, getting up earlier, homework, new teachers and friends.

What You Need To Know About Reducing the Stress and Planning a Healthy Back-To-School Transition

Communications at home: Schedule a meeting. Plan a family meeting this week where everyone can share their thoughts and concerns on the upcoming transition. Whether entering kindergarten or K through college, by listening, parents will be able to hear concerns and pick-up cues of any related worries or activities that need to be addressed. Keep the tone fun with everyone interacting with a calendar that will not only circle back-to-school and related activities, but also mark pleasurable events at school, including upcoming breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And make sure to schedule follow-up discussions to address (and check off) items: needed supplies; school clothes; packing backpacks; upcoming appointments (to visit school, doctors, shopping); extra-curricular activities and safety; and planning healthy routines (including eating, daily exercise, sleeping).

Health checkups and Immunizations. Oftentimes, the school’s website will provide good insight about health policies and procedures. Schools look at our kid’s vaccination history since birth, so talk with a physician to ensure that they are current.

Healthy vision is important to all aspects of student’s lives: schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, confidence, and safety. Some physicians may recommend a routine yearly eye exam because undetected vision problems can set a student up for possible learning disabilities, bad study habits, and poor grades. However, others may recommend that eye exams occur every 2 years if no vision correction is required with yearly exams for those with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Healthy Eat/Sleep/Exercise Routines: For Stronger Immune Systems & Overall Balance. Each day, at least an hour of activity, a healthy diet, and lots of sleep will go a long way in supporting overall well-being. Research shows that these healthy habits can help to defend against illness and support balance more than those that are lacking sleep or have unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles. Plan to start good back-to-school habits at least a week before to help everyone benefit from the rewards and make a smooth transition.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently released its first ever guidelines for the optimal number of sleep hours for kids: 3-5 year olds need 10-13 hours; 6-12 year olds need 9-12 hours; and teens 8-10 hours. The flurry of fun activities—and homework—can impinge into necessary sleep time. As parents we must help our kids schedule and manage these and create healthy sleep hygiene habits that will hopefully last them a lifetime.
Start every day with a healthy breakfast. Research has shown that students who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in the classroom because they have better concentration, problem-solving skills, endurance, hand-eye coordination and increased strength for tasks.
Lunchtime requires some planning and creativity to ensure balanced meals that include more fruit, more veggies and proteins. Keep students involved in the selection process (grocery store visits and in the kitchen) as it is an investment that reaps profitable dividends while learning about wise choices in the process.

Hands and Fingers Can Be Weapons of Mass Infection: Help Defend Against Illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most kids experience 6 to 12 illnesses each year ranging from mild to severe. And research shows that it is beneficial to practice good health etiquette in order to help protect against the spread of germs. Younger students need reminders about how to react when the urge to cough or sneeze arises by covering the mouth or nose and to wash hands afterwards. Always follow the school’s guidelines as to when sick kids should be kept home.

Safety: At School, in Neighborhoods and at Home. Safety can range from anxiousness with starting the new school year to backpacks, school traffic, bus loading, social networking to bullying. The Academy of American Pediatrics website is a good safety resource addressing each in great detail for back-to-school. A quick list for review while gathering more specific information:
Backpacks should be used that have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Keep it light by using all of its compartments and by packing heavier items closest to the center of the back. Backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight and should always be carried with both shoulder straps.
Younger children should always walk to school with an adult – as they get older, it may be acceptable to walk by themselves, but a buddy system is always preferable.
Identify a safe route with intersections that have safety guards even if it means a slightly longer walk (review the route beforehand) – and provide a reminder to never push, shove, or chase near the street.
– While it has been said before, it bears repeating: Never take rides, gifts or food from strangers or anyone not on the approved list that has been discussed at home
When riding a bus, review the need to arrive early, stay out of the street, take a seat, and always stay seated quietly (with arms and hands inside the bus) until the bus comes to a safe stop
For students who ride bikes to school, ensure they wear a helmet (and appropriate gear) that meets safety standards; research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.
For college-bound students, most colleges today offer safety escorts during evening hours – students need to know how to contact the college safety department and become familiar with the services provided
As a community it is important to watch out for students at intersections, driveways and keep an eye out in our neighborhoods
Review understandings about bullying, including what it is, what to do (including saying stop and walking away) and that if it does not stop, report it to a school teacher or administrator as well as always share bullying incidents with mom and dad (that day).

Whether students are starting kindergarten or entering college – communication is vital in the transition and planning. Shifting from summer to school is a time of jitters with anticipation of what is ahead. Refresh positive memories on the way for everyone involved and take time in this transition to enjoy new adventures and maintain a healthy balance among all the activities.

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