Beaches. Amusement parks. Vacations. Summer brings many joys. Now as it begins to wind down, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for the upcoming school year.
Which Vaccines Does My Child Need?
“All licensed medical providers in the U.S. follow a vaccine schedule that provides optimal protection,” says Dr. Heather Bernard, a pediatrician at Inova Cares Clinic for Children. “Your provider can tell you exactly which vaccines your child needs and when.”
Several vaccines are also required for day care and school entry in Virginia. Ask your provider about these requirements or check the Virginia Department of Health website.
What If We Don’t Have a Primary Provider?
“The Inova Cares Clinic for Children offers back-to-school physicals and other community health events,” Bernard says. “We provide free or low-cost vaccinations and other medical services for uninsured or underinsured children. You can also call us to set up an appointment.”
In addition, Inova Primary Care family medicine doctors see patients starting at 6 years old. Inova Primary Care providers offer appointments in the office and virtually. Find an Inova Primary Care location near you.
Your local health department also provides vaccines. “Many families visit the health department when they are new to the U.S.,” says Bernard. “It’s a great resource to get your child the vaccines they need.”
What Should Your Back-to-School Routine Look Like?
Returning to school after a summer filled with fun activities and loose schedules can be challenging for parents and children alike. A carefully planned routine that eases the transition should include the following:
- A sleep schedule. Kids need a certain amount of sleep for learning and memory. Preschoolers need 11 to 12 hours per night while school-age kids and pre-teens should get 10 to 11 hours per night. Teens need at least nine hours per night.
- Effective meal planning. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are equally important. Keep kids on track all day with a healthy breakfast complete with fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; protein such as eggs, beans, and meat; and dairy including low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt. Similarly, lunch should follow suit with a variety of foods including cheese, granola, trail mix, and yogurt.
- Established study time. Now that summer is in the rearview mirror, it’s time to define study time, whether that means completing homework after snacks in the afternoon or finishing up once dinner is over.
Coping with Back-to-School Anxiety
- Common anxieties. Children in transition — attending a new school or heading to middle school or high school — may need reassurance. Pay attention to changes in your children’s behavior. If your 7-year-old develops a fear of the dark or your teenager becomes defiant, it may signal anxiety connected to the first day of school.
- Coping strategies for parents and children. Make sure your stress is not transferring to your children. If you’re concerned about your daughter’s first day of kindergarten or your son’s first day of high school, it may trickle down to them. Manage your stress and try to stay as calm as possible around them. Start a conversation with your children. Ask open-ended questions: How do you feel about heading to high school? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year? Take away the fear of the unknown. Ask if your school offers student orientation and if it does, plan a visit before school starts. Schedule a fun weekend outing such as a trip to an ice cream parlor or a visit to the zoo once the first week is over.
Ensure Kids Use Backpacks Safely
Kids and teens use backpacks to carry books, tablets, and other supplies to and from school. But backpacks that are too big, too heavy, or don’t fit well may cause harm including changes in spinal alignment that can result in less effective shock absorption. Muscles and joints in the back, neck and shoulders are also at risk. Protect them by choosing the right backpack:
- Lightweight but strong
- Two wide-padded shoulder straps (not just one strap)
- A padded back to protect against sharp objects inside the bag.
- A waist and chest strap to help keep the bag stable.
- Appropriately sized (isn’t wider than your child’s torso or hanging more than 4 inches below the waist)
Talk to kids about the best ways to wear a backpack safely. Show them how to do the following:
- Pack lightly. The backpack should be at a comfortable weight. Weigh it on a scale. When full, it shouldn’t be more than 5 to 10 percent of your child’s body weight.
- Organize the backpack well. Place the heavy items low toward the center of the backpack.
- Only carry what’s needed. Make sure your children know not to carry a whole day’s worth of books and supplies at once.
- Use care when putting on and taking off backpacks. Children should avoid twisting too much. When picking up a heavy backpack, bend with both knees not at the waist.
- Use both shoulder straps. This will help distribute weight and promote good posture. Tell your children not to sling both straps over one shoulder. This makes posture off-balance.
Children Need a Balanced Diet
School-age children 6–12 years old need a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain their steady but slow rate of growth. They should eat four to five times a day including snacks. Here are some helpful mealtime tips:
- Set regular times for meals and snacks.
- Never let them go without breakfast. Fruit, milk, and peanut butter sandwiches are fast, healthy options.
- Offer them after-school snacks, such as yogurt and granola or cheese and crackers.
- Keep kids’ energy up with school lunches that have carbohydrates and proteins, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, beans, canned tuna, and yogurt.
- Don’t forget about exercise. Promote fitness and a healthy weight with at least 60 minutes of physical activity. They should also drink plenty of water or other fluids.
- Limit sugar and salt.
The Inova Cares Clinic for Children offers back-to-school physicals and other community health events. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays. Saturday appointments are available at the Falls Church location by appointment only.
Feature image by Kiattisak/stock.adobe.com
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