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TOP 10 WAYS TO ENSURE A HAPPY, HEALTHY SCHOOL YEAR FOR YOUR CHILD

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As parents, we want to do all we can to help our children succeed in school and life. However, without a well thought out plan, we may find that we can barely keep up with our kids' hectic schedules…let alone help them develop strong, healthy habits. As your family settles into your school-time routine, there are several things you can do to keep your kids strong and healthy this school year.

1. Stay up-to-date on vaccines. 

For many families, the pandemic swept regular child well-checks and immunizations to the wayside, resulting in a significant drop in the number of kids who received vaccines on time. Now, as we enter the fall semester, it's time to bring your student back to the doctor for their yearly visit. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, your child needs to get their flu shot by the end of October to be prepared for the annual flu season.

2. Build healthy hygiene habits. 

To keep from getting sick and spreading germs to classmates, teach your child to wash their hands frequently (before and after meals, recess, and using the bathroom) and thoroughly (about 2 Happy Birthday songs) with soap and warm water. Encourage them to avoid touching their face, sneeze in their shoulder rather than their hand, and use hand sanitizer if they can't get to the bathroom.

3. Establish a good sleep routine. 

When it comes to your child's sleep schedule, consistency is key. Kids in kindergarten through grade six should get between nine and 11 hours of sleep each night. The quality of a child's sleep is directly associated with a wide range of important factors, such as…

  • mood and stress level,
  • social behavior,
  • mental health,
  • eating habits,
  • school performance,
  • memory and concentration,
  • susceptibility to injuries,
  • and the ability to fight off infections.

4. Do breakfast and lunch the right way. 

Do your best NOT to sacrifice nutrition for convenience. Rather than opting for cereal or sending your child out the door with a Poptart in the morning, strive to provide healthier alternatives…like eggs, fruit, and yogurt. For lunch, incorporate a good variety of foods: lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Set yourself up for success even before the week starts with healthy meal prep!

5. Work a little exercise into each day. 

Do it as a family. Go on a walk, play together outside, or do some fun kid-friendly indoor workouts. Strive for around 60 minutes of exercise a day. Even 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your child's sleep quality, immune system, stress management, school performance, and overall health.

6. Remember to stay hydrated. 

This is an important one…especially with Wilmington's hot, humid weather. Dehydration can cause all sorts of negative side effects that can hinder your child's performance at school, including headaches, fatigues, lightheadedness, and poor concentration. Below, we've listed our recommendations for the amount of water and/or milk children of differing ages should drink each day.

  • Ages 1-3: about 3-4 cups
  • Ages 4-7: about 5 cups
  • Age 8 and older: about 8 cups

7. Keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety. 

Try to implement discussions about mental health and stress management into your family's regular routine. But be aware of. your child's unique limits. Your child may not feel comfortable disclosing their innermost feelings voluntarily. In such cases, try to give them a way to communicate with you when they are not doing, without disclosing all the nitty gritty details at once. If your child is unwilling to open up about their stress level and anxieties, pay close attention to the differences in your child's actions and facial expressions when they seem to be happy and relaxed versus overwhelmed with school responsibilities and social pressures. When your child is ready, brainstorm together some outlets they can use to de-stress and manage their mental health.

8. Place a limit on screen-time. 

One of the biggest contributing factors to child insomnia and heightened levels of child anxiety is the constant exposure to screen technology and online social information. We suggest setting a limit of 2 hours (or less) on non-homework screen time in your home (for you parents, too). This includes everything from phones, tablets, and computers to television and video games.

9. Keep your child home when they are sick. 

Every morning before school, try to check in with your child to see how they are feeling. If they don't sound or look so hot, take their temperature and record any concerning symptoms. Don't brush off symptoms! These days, it's pretty easy for teachers to adapt if students have to attend class from home or make up work.

Your child should stay home if they:

  • Have a fever (100 degrees or higher)
  • Vomit more than once
  • Have a cough or sore throat
  • Are experiencing frequent diarrhea (3 or more loose stools in 24 hours)
  • Complain of muscle aches or joint point
  • Have the chills or shaking shivers
  • Have an unexplained rash
  • Are unable to eat and drink as usual
  • Are unable to concentrate on schoolwork because of their symptoms

10. Be prepared for these common illnesses. 

Certain conditions are very common in the schools (and spread rather easily). Make sure you brush up on these key illnesses so you can catch them early and act fast if they make way to your child's classroom. 

Below, we've listed the regular symptoms of these common conditions.

  • Hand-foot-mouth disease: mouth sores and blisters on the hands and feet.
  • Head lice: white particles (lice eggs) in the hair, itchy scalp, red bumps on the neck and head, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Pink eye: itchy, painful eyes that are red or pink rather than white; watery, green or white discharge
  • Fifth disease ("slapped cheek syndrome"): rash on the cheeks, sometimes a low-grade fever.

Check out more common illnesses.


CAROLINA PEDIATRICS | WILMINGTON, NC

Have more questions about maintaining your child's health this school year? Need to set up your child's annual well-visit? Schedule an appointment with the Carolina Pediatrics team through our Patient Portal.

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