Tips for preparing students, parents for the journey back to school

  • Published
  • By Stuart Bapties
  • Health and Wellness Center Flight chief

You’re just about done shopping for school supplies, fall clothes, gym uniforms and getting ideas for lunchtime foods and snacks. So now it’s time to help your kid start and continue the new school year in good health and to make the experience rich and rewarding for them. Whether it’s their first day in kindergarten or even if they are off to college, there are things that you can do to alleviate some of those back to school jitters for both you and your kids.

Let’s look at some quick helpful tips:

Take a look at eyesight. Even if your child has passed the school or pediatrician eye screening, vision issues can still exist and shouldn’t be dismissed if they are struggling. A child with 20-20 vision can still have vision problems so often a comprehensive eye exam is one of the most important things that you can do during the school year to maximize your child’s ability to contribute and do well in school. The optometrist will also check for focusing ability, eye-tracking and eye hand coordination skills. Keep in mind that, in the classroom, a large percentage of learning is visual.

Encourage vision e-breaks. We’re aware that more and more learning is becoming computer and tablet based and optometrists suggest using the 20-20-20 rule to counter vision problems. Simply keep in mind that when using any kind of electronic technology, you should take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. This can help prevent the muscles of the eye from getting locked in at that focused close position and can help prevent many of the vision problems associated with constant technology use.

& Get your child the proper vaccinations to prevent against disease. Make sure that you are talking to your family doctor about age and circumstance appropriate vaccinations. For example, the meningococcal vaccine protects your child from meningitis, an infection of the fluid and lining around the spinal cord and brain. Teens and young adults, especially those living in dorms or close quarters, can be at higher risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preteens should get their first meningococcal dose at age 11 or 12 and teens will need a booster at age 16.

Ensure a safe walk to school or to the bus stop. Walking provides good exercise and if your child has a safe path, that’s great. Remember though that you want to make sure that they are ready to handle any traffic situations such as crossing the street or busy intersections. While ages vary slightly, the National Center for Safe Routes to School cautions that most kids aren’t ready to cross the street alone until they are 10 years old.

Brush up on dental hygiene. As kids get back to school it’s a good time to reinforce that good dental hygiene routine that may have slipped during summer vacations. A good rule of thumbs from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is to have kids brush at least two minutes, twice a day and floss.

Quickly shift back to a healthy sleep routine. Often kids stray far from their school sleep routine during the summer, sleeping in until 10 or 11 a.m. and staying up much later than usual. In order to get them back on track, have them stick to their school sleep routine during that first weekend after school starts and don’t let them fall back into the summer routine. Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential for both learning and safety.

Be prepared and equipped for sports and outdoor activity. You can feel the heat outside, it’s still going to be 90 plus degrees when school starts. Even so, many schools are going to jump right into two a day football practices so make sure your child has a complete sports physical and that they are learning about and utilizing proper nutrition, proper hydration, proper rest, and proper fitting equipment for the sports that they are playing. Shin guards and proper footwear helps minimize soreness, blisters, and overuse injuries. Light colored clothing when practicing in the sun can reduce the risk of heat injuries and mouth guards will protect those teeth. If your child is going to be signing up for sports, mouth guards are essential for baseball, football, basketball and soccer and several dentists say that they have even seen dental injuries from striking pool corners during flip turns.

Ease those first day jitters. It’s normal for both of you to feel nervous and anxious that first day, especially in a new school or location. Some things that may help include doing and talking through some practice runs before school starts and going through drop-off and pick-up procedures so that your child feels less anxious when the time comes. If it will help, you can even take them inside that first day to get to know the school layout or meet teachers. But keep in mind though that often kids are just fine their first day and are actually pretty excited at the prospect of starting school and that it may be you as a parent that ends up finding it hard to let go that first day. So, as tempting as it is to linger and hold on, remember that having a smooth release and drop off helps your child transition to being independent and handling it on their own.

For the next few weeks, the Health and Wellness Center Dietitian will post Rev-Up and Facebook articles with nutritious recipes that you can cook and freeze for easy access to quick meals during this busy time while you are working to get your family’s back to school schedule solidified.