Back-to-school season is in full swing, so we talked with Dr. Darby McElderry, a pediatrician at Greenvale Pediatrics-Brook Highland, to learn her recommendations for a healthy start to the school year. Keep reading for expert tips.
1. Talk to your child about their feelings
As students start a new school year, it’s normal to be a little overwhelmed. There are many different stressors that can have an impact on your student, like getting a new teacher or transitioning from elementary school to junior high.
“Transitioning to a new school can feel scary and exciting, whether it be a move to a new city or from middle to high school. Talk to your child about their feelings regarding this transition. Reassure them that changing schools is normal, as are mixed emotions about the transition.”Dr. Darby McElderry
Here are a few tips Dr. McElderry suggests for parents to manage this stress:
- Pay attention to cues that the transition may be difficult for them (poor sleep, difficulty focusing, emotional changes, acting out) and address them.
- Teach them relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or listening to music.
- Talk to your child’s doctor if stress or anxiety seems overwhelming to your child.
2. Stay hydrated
It sounds obvious, but it is so important to be sure your student is well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Here’s a rough guideline:
- Ages 1-8: one cup (8 ounces) of water per year of age per day
- Ages 9 and up: about 64 ounces per day
Another metric often used is to drink an amount in ounces equal to about half one’s body weight (e.g., If a person 125 pounds, drink about 64 ounces of water daily).
3. Build a sleep routine for school
For kids, getting the recommended amount of sleep regularly is linked to improved overall physical and mental health. Dr. McElderry suggests these guidelines:
- Ages 6-12 are recommended to get 9-12 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- Ages 13-18 should get 8-10 hours per 24 hours
- Ages 19+ should get 7 or more hours per night
4. Maintain healthy habits
Caring for your child’s health will ensure they are physically prepared to be their best selves at school. This starts with their daily habits.
- Eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources.
- Practice portion control and take time to eat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Stay home when sick (general rule: a child may return to school once fever-free for 24 hours).
Another essential part of staying healthy is sticking to regular check-ups.
“Even if your child isn’t sick often, a well-child check-up serves to monitor growth and development, provides opportunities for you and your child to talk to your doctor and provides opportunities for immunizations and staying up to date and informed.”Dr. Darby McElderry
5. For parents of high schoolers, begin to prepare for the transition to an adult physician
As students near high school graduation and prepare to take their next step, this is a great time to start your search for an adult doctor.
“Speak with your current doctor about finding a new adult doctor. Pediatricians often keep resources to pass along to their ‘graduating’ patients. Ask your parents, your friends and family members who they see and if they have been pleased with their doctor.”Dr. Darby McElderry
Health care looks different for everyone, so take some time to research and find the best care for your child.