Going Back to School?
As a recent graduate student, this is the first Fall in a LONG time that I am not going back to school!
Throughout my educational career, every year before returning in the fall, I would go through my checklist of must do’s. This included everything from getting school supplies, to preparing for the onslaught of health risks I was soon to encounter.
It has been proven that academic success is strongly linked to the health of the student. It is our responsibility as health care providers, parents, and the student to give ourselves every chance to be successful - and step one is our health! As the school year draws near, I thought I would share my checklist with you:
1. Required immunizations: Since our academic success starts with our health, let’s do all the prevention that we can!
· Ages 10 and 11 are very important years to update your vaccinations, typically including tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Typically, students will not be able to enter the 6th grade without these important vaccinations.
· Teens, generally around 16, will need a booster to protect against meningitis. Check out this schedule of recommended immunizations for kids ages 7 – 18, provided by the CDC – it’s a great reference tool!
· Entering college is another important year when you must see your physician to get the proper vaccinations. These include vaccinations against meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus, hepatitis B and the HPV vaccine. Here is the recommended immunization schedule for adults, again provided by the CDC.
2. School’s medication policy: For those of us that have chronic health concerns such as Asthma or allergies, it is essential that we contact the school to ensure we can have our medication with us, or at school, at all times. So, just remember that if you have inhalers or EPI pens, you must contact the school to ensure the medication is available in case of an emergency.
3. Eating Healthy: Eating the right foods not only helps the waistline, but evidence proves that proper nutrition can improve academic success!
· Eat Breakfast. We have all heard that “breakfast is for champions,” and it really is! Breakfast improves our concentration, creativity, and mental alertness. According to KidsHealth, “Kids who skip breakfast feel tired, restless, or irritable,” they continue to describe, “choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while LOW in added sugar may boost kids’ attention span, concentration, and memory,” – all of which are needed to learn! In addition, kids who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day, leading to a healthier body weight, lower blood cholesterol levels, healthier immune systems, and fewer absences from school.
· Foods to Avoid. There are also a couple of foods that we should avoid because they can impair our academic performance by interfering with sleep and concentration. For example SUGAR and CAFFEINE can cause hyperactivity, difficulty with concentration, and may interfere with sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent.” Restrict your child's soft drink consumption!
4. Sleep: We all know that proper amounts of sleep are important for our overall well-being. Typically, during the summer hours, most of us like to sleep in and stay up late (if we are not going to school or work). I would suggest that 1-2 weeks prior to starting school, begin going to bed early and waking up at the time you will need to get up for school. This will allow for a much easier transition and full alertness starting on day one!
5. Transportation Safety Tips: There are many ways we come and go from school, but it is always a good idea to review some basic important safety tips with your child.
· Riding the Bus. Always wait for the bus to come to a complete stop. Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
· Riding in a Car. Everyone in the car needs to wear a seat belt and/or an age appropriate booster.
Teens: many crashes occur while young drivers are going to and from school. A Couple of helpful hints: limit the number of passengers, no eating or drinking, and stay off of the cell phone – that includes TEXTING while driving! These all cause a lot of distractions and lead to accidents. It’s often a good idea to discuss these important issues with your teens and possibly develop a parent-teen agreement. Click here for a sample parent-teen driver agreement.
College Students: Yes, the drinking age is 21, but as many of us know, there is a lot of underage drinking on college campuses. Parents need to discuss this important topic with their children, touching on the importance of avoiding alcohol and what to do in certain situations. And, most importantly, explain the importance and implications of driving while intoxicated and/or getting in a car with someone who has been drinking! A recent article in USA TODAY states that “About 1,400 college students are killed every year in alcohol-related accidents. Motor vehicle fatalities were the most common form of alcohol- related deaths.”
· Riding a Bike: Please wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride (and that goes for skate boarding, roller blading, any other form of non-motor toys). Learn the rules of the road to keep yourself safe!
6. Homework and Study Habits: Everyone has something a little different that enhances their study time. For me, it was my amazing study group and my spot in the library! But, it is important to create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that promotes study – it should be quiet and without distractions.
A few helpful hints: schedule ample time for homework. Establish household rules regarding homework. For example, no TV or no cell phone use during homework time. Parents want to supervise the computer and Internet use.
7. Supplies: Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to shop for all of your school supplies! This was always my favorite – and yes, supplies include back-to-school clothes!
Wishing you and your family a successful and healthy back-to-school season!
-Posted by Carleigh Kessler, MSN, FNP