Back-to-School Health Tips: Parenting Distilled

Preparing for the children’s return to school is an excellent marker for a busy family, an opportunity to focus on some parenting priorities that really work all year. In fact, you might say that back-to-school is just a distillation of them.

Many sports teams and some schools call for a routine physical exam for returning children. And August is designated National Immunization Awareness Month to remind people of the importance of making sure everyone’s immunizations are up-to-date. So, it’s a good time to see a family physician.

Concise and thorough, one of the best reminder lists of back-to-school health tips comes from Johns Hopkins University, and it serves as a good outline for those parenting priorities.

Focus on Nutrition

It’s estimated that 40% of daily calorie intake for children two to 10 years old is from added sugars and solid fats – “empty calories.” As a result, 17% of our youth in that age range are obese, and the impact of obesity reaches throughout a person’s body and outlook on life.

The first suggestion is to be a role model for a healthy diet. Because diet is cultural as well as physical, demonstrating what a good approach to eating looks like may be one of the most important and lasting gifts we can give our children. Continuing to offer healthful foods, even to picky eaters, is important. And it’s suggested that we don’t use food as a reward.

Know the Specific Risks

Apart from obesity, which threatens diabetes, heart disease, skeletal stress, and a host of other issues, our children face risks ranging from head lice to scoliosis in the school environment. Knowing the risks helps us know what to prepare and watch for. Your family physician is an excellent source for identifying these risks.

Poor vision often is not discovered until a child has been struggling for months or even years. The school environment is an excellent place to uncover this, as squinting at the board and holding electronic devices too close are signals to look into further. Ask the teacher to help you watch for these.

Make Sleep a Priority

Many of us don’t realize that sleep is equally important as diet and exercise for children’s healthy growth, and most need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. As with adults, too, much interest in electronic devices robs children of some of these important hours of sleep.

Be a Partner in Your Children’s Education

Consider yourself your children’s spokesperson in developing the relationship you would like to see them have with their teachers. Make sure the teacher knows particular strengths and challenges, likes and dislikes and especially what you’ve observed about their preferred learning styles.

Though no one want to be “that parent” who hovers, it’s still good to realize there are subjects that you can introduce into the dialogue with their teacher that they are not nearly so able to do.

This back-to-school time reminds us of the joys as well as the responsibilities of being a parent. Often the job calls for the professional awareness and skills of a family physician, and we’d be proud to become yours. Just call us at 843-815-6468.