Get Your Kids Ready to say Goodbye Summer, Hello School

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness August 10, 2012

Although I hate to admit it, summer vacation for the kids will be ending soon. With this in mind, it’s important to start the school year in a healthy way. As a dad to three kids of my own, I know all too well that it is not easy to break the summer routine.

Kids need sleep. For kids three to six years old, it is recommended that they get 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day. For kids 7 to 12 years old, it is recommended to get 10 to 11 hours per day. And for kids 12 to 18 years old, it is recommended to get 8 to 9 hours per day. These, of course, vary, depending on your child's needs and activities.  It is well known that for growing children, getting the optimal amount of sleep enhances learning. With early school times or even early drop off schedules, it is very important that children get their 10 hours of sleep every night. For kids from 3 to 12 years old, setting routines, such as reading books at 7:30 p.m. and then lights out at 8:30 p.m. gives children a schedule which their bodies and mind will appreciate. Of course, they will fight this initially, as their summer probably didn't have strict rules, however they will be able to learn to their maximum capacity while they are at school.

We as parents need to realize that school is very different today than when we were in school. Textbooks have become heavier, homework has become significantly increased, and the amount of activities kids are participating in today are all increased compared to when we were in school. Because of this, it has become common to see more neck and back injuries in the emergency department due to heavy backpacks. I recommend roller backpacks, which thankfully are in style at schools. If your kids opt for a traditional backpack though, make sure they are using two straps and opt for thicker shoulder pads to provide more comfort. 

Prior to going back to school, it's a great idea to get the kids to the pediatrician for their annual checkup. At this appointment, you can make sure all your children's vaccines are up-to-date, discuss any medical issues prior to going back to school, get all your school paperwork filled out, do a quick vision test to ensure optimal education, and discuss any needs that the child may have.

If your child has food allergies, it is extremely important to discuss these issues with the school and your child's teacher prior to the school year. Food allergies have become an epidemic problem for children. Today, especially for those in elementary school, it is uncommon to see a classroom without anyone with food allergies. Although sharing is a good thing in most cases, this doesn’t always ring true when your child wants to share food. Schools are also implementing policies about lunches. Many schools are nut-free, and therefore the once staple of lunches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, are not allowed at school. However, soy butter and jelly sandwiches are generally okay.

Finally, in anticipation of the new school year, it is important to start school habits at least one to two weeks prior to starting school. This means slowly getting to bed earlier, getting backpacks and school supplies, talking with kids regarding their goals, and creating a calendar with your kids to encourage organization.

As we prepare to send our kids back to school in a few weeks, I will be implementing these strategies to ensure that my kids have a successful start to the new school year; I hope you will too!

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