Getting back to a healthy routine at the beginning of a new school year can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be complicated – especially with a little planning on your part. The most important thing parents should keep in mind is that children need one or two weeks to transition from summer mode to school routine.
The summer days when we stayed at the beach or the pool until sunset were fun, but it’s best to start changing that ritual before school starts. By the same token, your children’s eating schedule and their bed time need to begin to be adjusted in preparation for school. Here are some useful tips:
- Eat healthy. An important point to make is that it’s easier to maintain healthy eating habits throughout summer, as much as possible, rather than try to change it drastically at the start of school. We should try to avoid sending the message that, because it’s summer, you can get away with anything. Let’s try to plan ahead, and instead of offering soft drinks and sugary drinks, offer water and fruit. You can offer watermelon a other water-rich fruit that can quench their thirst
- Re-think rewards. Instead of offering ice cream or other treats as rewards for homework done or other chores, better to award a privilege, such as choosing the movie you’ll watch together on family night, or downloading a favorite song from iTunes. During summertime, maybe we went to the ice cream shop more often, but when it’s time to go back to school, it’s best to maintain a steady healthy diet.
- Adjust eating times. Let’s establish meal times since morning and let’s stick with it. Try to ensure you have fruits and vegetables ready to serve with each meal. It’s not about eating vegetables once a week. Let’s offer vegetables and fruit with each meal. Remember to set a good example.
- Choose healthy snacks. Try to eat and offer snacks that don’t come in a packet. Prepackaged foods might look convenient, but usually have low nutritional value. Trade prepackaged snacks for fresh fruit, especially citrus which contain vitamin C and will boost their immune system.
- Get the backpack ready. Help your children double check that all materials are ready the night before. Make sure they have what they need and save them (and you) the stress. If you pack a lunch, let them help plan what they will bring. Don’t forget to include water.
- Prevent colds. Pay special attention to prevention during the first few days of school. In addition to helping them keep their immune system strong with good nutrition, teach them to wash their hands often, and always before eating. We all have to touch the world we live in – it’s inevitable and we can’t tell them not to touch all day long. They are going to touch door handles, greet their friends, and the younger ones will hug their friends. Teach them to respect others’ space and make their own space respected, but the most important thing is teaching them to wash their hands.
- Get a wellness check. It’s good to take the time to visit your family care doctor before, or at the beginning of, the school year to do a well-child evaluation for your children. You can take advantage of this time to have your family doctor emphasize the importance of healthy eating and exercising to your children. Sometimes, they listen to a third party more than they listen to parents, and this visit is a chance to reinforce the good advice you’ve been trying to impart from an early age.
- Have forms ready. The sports physical exam is a form you turn in at school to show your child is ready and able to participate in sports. It is also an opportunity to have your children evaluated by your family doctor. In addition measure height and weight, a detailed history and a discussion on new developments with your own family doctor can give your child’s care continuity and make them feel at ease. A doctor who knows you and your child might notice changes and be able to advise you and your child on ways to stay healthy – and reassure you when there’s nothing to worry about.
Many people ask whether you need a pediatrician for annual checkups. To help you consider options, it’s good to keep in mind that family doctors are trained in pediatrics as well as adult medicine. Family doctors are required to do rotations in pediatrics and we see children from birth to adolescence. Your family doctor is able to do a well-child check and also recommend any follow-up and treatment.
Dr. Martinez-Wittinghan, MD, PhD, from Baptist Primary Care in Nocatee, sees patients of all ages. He has a special interest in helping patients break old habits and replace them with healthy habits. He believes understanding and partnership with your doctor are essential to well-being.