Five Simple Back-To-School Health Steps Every Parent Should Take

As students of all ages head back to school this fall, there are several steps every parent can take to make sure their children stay as physically, mentally and emotionally healthy as possible!  By following these five simple steps, parents can help their children improve their health and increase their classroom success the coming academic year.

1)  Maintain a healthy bedtime.

During the summer it’s easy for sleep schedules to get off track.  But during the school year, erratic sleep patterns can lead to problems with concentration, energy and mental performance.  At the beginning of the school year, it’s important to re-establish a healthy bedtime and a bedtime routine so students get the sleep they need to reach their learning potential.

2)  Make sure backpacks fit well.

Heavy backpacks can cause neck, shoulder and back problems, especially if they aren’t worn properly.  Try to eliminate any unnecessary weight from your student’s backpack, and make sure your child wears both straps over their shoulders.  Backpacks that are heavy and/or slung over one shoulder can cause increased muscle strain and joint pain.

3)   Make nutrition a priority.

Nearly one in four children is obese, and the average child in the U.S. gets 40% of their calories from sugar and fat.  When children don’t get good nutrition, they’re at risk for long-term health consequences like obesity and diabetes. And in the short run, they’re more likely to have behavioral issues and problems with concentration and learning.  By making sure your child gets healthy, balanced snacks and meals, you’ll increase their chances of physical wellness and academic success.

4)   Watch for signs of bullying.

More than 25% of middle school students and 20% of high school students experience bullying each year, which has a significant effect on students’ emotional wellbeing. In fact, 160,000 students skip school every day because they’re worried a classmate will bully them.  Bullying, whether it happens at school or online, can lead to poor self esteem, anxiety, depression and even suicide.  It’s important to watch for signs of bullying, including behavior changes, withdrawing from social interactions and increased anxiety so you can intervene if your child is bullied.  It’s also important for parents and teachers to help children develop a healthy self-esteem, as well as respect and kindness for others, so students can become part of the solution instead of contributing to the bullying epidemic.

5)   Limit screen time.

While it has become “normal” for children to engage in social media, play games on their iPads and watch TV for hours on end when they get home from school, extended screen time isn’t healthy for children.  Children ages 3-18 should have no more than two hours of screen time a day (and pediatricians recommend that children under 2 have no screen time at all.) By limiting your student’s use of electronic devices, you’ll decrease their risk of obesity, improve their social skills, and increase the amount of time they spend on healthy behaviors like reading, playing with friends, using their imagination and exercising.  You’ll also improve the quality of their sleep.

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At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we provide same-day illness and injury care for children of all ages!  Make an appointment online or simply walk in to get the care you or your little ones need.

Author
Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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