Phew! It’s August, finally. The sweet spot of the year where the fun of summer starts winding down and anticipation for fall starts to build. However, if you’re a parent, August means something else entirely. It marks the beginning of the back-to-school rush.
Between school-supply shopping, scheduling routine wellness exams and picking out a new wardrobe for the school year—which is a must—there are just too many things to do in too little time. So something has got to give, but don’t let it be the health of your child.
In an effort to help you navigate this hectic time, we recently spoke with Tik Pau, MD, a primary care provider with Gwinnett Medical Group’s Bostock Family Medicine, to learn more about her recommended back-to-school health tips. Here are some of the takeaways you should know:
1. Early to bed, early to rise.
Summertime and sleep routines don’t usually go together. However, to help children and teens adjust to the earlier wake-up times that school demands, start making slight changes to their sleep schedule.
“About two to three weeks before school begins, start moving their bedtime up by 15 minutes each night and waking them 15 minutes earlier,” says Dr. Pau. Keep doing this until the desired waking time is reached, and don’t skip the weekends. “And don’t forget that school-aged children need nine to 12 hours of sleep, while teens need more like eight to 10 hours.”
2. Dress for success.
The classic debate continues. Should you choose style or comfort? For your child, this may be an easy answer (style), but there are a few items, like backpacks and shoes, where comfort should always be king.
When it comes to backpacks, it’s all about the shoulder straps. “You’ll want to make sure that they’re durable and will evenly distribute weight across your child’s back,” explains Dr. Pau. Between their textbooks, electronics, and lunch, backpacks can easily weigh your child down, causing neck and back pain.
As far as shoes go, it can be tricky to find a pair that can keep up with your child’s growing feet. “Unfortunately, if shoes don’t fit well, this can irritate their feet and lead to a number of issues, like bunions, corns, hammer toes, and pain,” notes Dr. Pau.
To ensure shoes fit properly, make sure that they are able to wiggle their toes freely inside the shoe. This is key as feet swell throughout the day, making them longer and wider.
3. Keep it delicious—and nutritious.
“Ideally, children should be getting fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy in all of their meals,” emphasizes Dr. Pau. But that doesn’t mean that your child wouldn’t rather be eating pizza, fries and ice cream.
So what’s the secret to getting your child to eat all of these healthy foods? Let them pick it out. Instead of taking them to the store with you, which can be bad news bears, give them a list of choices in each of these healthy food groups and let them select their favorites. This is a great technique to use for both breakfast and lunch.
4. Confidence is key.
If you think building self-esteem and confidence is complicated, imagine how your child must feel. “They’re experiencing emotional and physical changes at every age; all of which can contribute to self-doubt,” emphasizes Dr. Pau. To help support confidence, try these simple tips:
•Seek your child’s opinions, and include them in family decisions.
•While your child may go through a bit of a learning curve when it comes to rules at home and school, focus on what they do right instead of wrong. Praise their good choices and things done well.
•This is a time for self-discovery, so encourage your child to find their strengths and things they enjoy doing. Whether that’s participating in sports, drama club or art programs, there is no shortage of options.
•Support your child’s efforts to make friends. Help them stay socially involved and offer to organize get-togethers as desired.
Your child + GMG Primary Care = A healthy school year.
Instead of adding something to your back-to-school list, let Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care check something off. Whether it’s a physical for sports, recommended vaccines, treatment for a stomach bug or well-child care, you can count on GMG to provide comprehensive that grows with your child. To learn more, visit gwinnettmedicalgroup.com/primary.