As US kids get ready to head back to the classroom and rigorous academic workloads, endless hours of free time, lazy afternoons and wee-hour bedtimes will soon be hazy summer memories. To prevent this shock to the system child health experts advise how to keep children well-versed in healthy living.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that a few weeks before school starts, children's sleep pattern must be tweaked for an earlier wake-up call. Time limits for sleep must be set to about 15 minutes earlier a day as the school year approaches. NSF advises that a sleep schedule be set to go on even during weekends.
Children should be encouraged to be active outdoors in the bright light of the morning instead of flicking channels in front of the television.
Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics said that in the days leading up to school, smooth a stressful transition by being as prepared as possible.
He also recommended updating vaccines and boosters requirements.
The American Occupational Therapy Association recommends backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back to protect children's backs. Backpack weight should be to the maximum only 15 percent of a student's total body weight. In addition backpack straps must be worn over both shoulders.
Current contact information must be provided. Updated health and emergency contact forms should be sent on the first day of school with the child.
It would also be helpful to preview the day and especially walk younger kids mentally through their day, from arrival to lunch to after-school routines.
Brown advised that as school gets into full swing the family should spend at least 20 minutes together sitting down and talking, preferably while enjoying a healthy dinner.
A productive workspace must be provided with the study area being quiet, well-lit and technology-free. It would be advisable to get to know the friends of one's child. Talk to the child's teacher if he is found to be unable to make friends after about a month of school.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician at the Northwestern Memorial Wellness Institute in Chicago said, 'Forget those backseat burgers on the way to soccer practice. Eating habits on a tight schedule are easier than parents might think. Keep the fruit bowl stocked; kids will reach for them after they get home.'
Blatner added, 'Prepare quick finger foods. Offer pre-peeled oranges in baggies, frozen grapes, fruit cups in their own juice and apple slices with low-fat caramel sauce. Think creatively with veggies. Pair low-fat ranch or Italian with carrots or broccoli to make them tastier. Go for fun and nutritious with 'ants-on-a-log.'
MaryKate Harrison, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association said that at the school cafeteria, kids should be aware of 'go, slow and whoa' foods: 'go' foods are reen, 'slow' foods are caution and 'whoa' foods are a red light. She said that some U.S. schools have also started to label foods for kids to make easier decisions about what's best to eat.
Of course it should be kept in mind that children are adjusting to a dizzying array of social networks and relationships. However if one's child is suspected to be the victim of a bully, it is important to notify the teacher and teach a child how to handle tense situations.
Dave Bennett, a clinical psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., said that children should be equipped to handle conflict. Bennett advises children to walk away and ignore the bully because bullies usually seek a reaction of fear or frustration. Humor can be also be used to diffuse a bully's aggression.
Child can also be instructed to say something like, 'Stop doing that. It's not fair.' He said fairness seems to strike a chord with other children, and may encourage support.