A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

A healthy and happy school year: Tips for parents

Making sure your child is back-to-school ready involves more than shopping for school supplies and buying the next size up in shoes. Help prep your child to stay healthy going into and throughout the school year with immunizations, a well-child visit and sports physical, and much more.

To kick-start the school year right, consider these tips.

Stay up-to-date on immunizations

Immunization schedules help provide children with immunity early in life.

“This helps them to be protected from diseases that spread easily among peers in group settings. This could cause serious health problems and life-threatening diseases,” said Dr. Christopher Ordonez, pediatrician with Marshfield Children’s.

Your provider will know what vaccines your child needs and at what time. Common ones they will want to stay current on include influenza, tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox).

mom helping child place water bottle in backpack for school

Making sure your child is prepped to stay healthy going into and throughout the school year is vital to giving them the best school year possible.

Stay current on well-child visits and routine sports physicals

Annual check-ups with your pediatrician help ensure your child is healthy.

“Well-child visits allow your provider to work with the family as a team to examine the child holistically, assess their physical and emotional needs, support their growth and development and intervene quickly if any issues arise,” Dr. Ordonez said.

Sports physicals are another important addition to routine appointments. Physicals give providers the opportunity to catch potentially life-threatening health problems that can be worsened by sports activity. Providers can assess how student athletes are doing health-wise, regardless of whether they feel or notice symptoms.

Practice healthy hygiene habits

The best way to avoid spreading germs is proper hand washing. Wash the fronts and backs of hands and in-between fingers. Hand sanitizer also will work when soap and water aren’t available.

Teach children to cough or sneeze into their elbow or sleeve, to avoid spreading germs onto others.

Eat a well-balanced diet

Daily balanced, healthy meals are important for keeping kids alert and keeping their bodies strong.

“Try not to use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables, for example, sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert,” Dr. Ordonez said. “Buy fewer soft drinks and high fat and high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies and candy. While snacks are OK once in a while, keep healthy snack foods on hand and offer them often.”

Healthy snacks children can munch on at home or bring to school include fresh or frozen fruit, small amounts of dried fruits like raisins, apple rings or apricots, fresh vegetables like baby carrots, cucumbers or tomatoes and low-fat yogurt with fruit.

Stay hydrated

Healthy drink choices, like water and milk, can help prevent fatigue, improve mood and enhance brain function.

Avoid sugary drinks like soda or sports drinks. An excess of sugar and caffeine can increase heart rates, blood pressure, interrupt sleep and cause irritability.

Get plenty of sleep

Consistent sleep schedules can help children get better, quality rest. At least eight hours of sleep is associated with healthier body composition, lower risk of heart disease and helps your child perform better in school and boosts their immune system.

Monitor your child for signs they might be stressed out or could use extra support

Watch for:

  • Emotional outbursts or increased irritability that are inconsistent with previous behavior.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Withdrawing from others, like friends and family.
  • Struggles with school, such as a change in performance or not focusing.
  • Increased defiance, like feelings of anger or stubborn behaviors.

“If you identify any of these changes,  consult your pediatrician and discuss healthy ways to support and improve anxiety or stress in your child,” Dr. Ordonez said.

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