It is an honor to share words of wisdom from local pediatric Physicians Assistant, Kellie Flock of Surf Pediatrics. Back to school is right around the corner so special thanks to Kellie for these great tips and reminders!
It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and back to school time is right around the corner. In just one week, we will be trading in beach towels and bathing suits for backpacks and lunch boxes. For some of us this transition is familiar as can be and the words “have a good day at school” will easily roll off our tongues. For others of us (read: ME!), it will be our very first time, and the idea of sending our baby (who cannot possibly be five years old and enrolled in kindergarten?!?) onto this next step will surely cause some tears. Okay, a lot of tears. Regardless of whether your child is heading off to kindergarten or into their senior year, there are some things you can do to make sure that they start off on the right foot! Getting their sleep and eating habits back on track, setting some boundaries for screen time, and making sure they are up to date on physicals and vaccinations are all important things that can help make this transition a smooth one.
Sleep. Oh, how important it is. Somehow, summer always creeps in with its long lasting sunlight and lazy days and kills those great bedtime routines we spent so much time creating. Now is the perfect time to start getting your child back on track. Back up their bedtime by 15-30 minutes each day or two until they are back to a reasonable bedtime, and start waking them up 15-30 minutes earlier as well if they have gotten into the habit of sleeping in. Remember, the average 5-10 year old still needs 10-11 hours of sleep a night and adolescents and teenagers need 8-9 hours a night.
Be sure to set some boundaries for screen time. Contrary to teenager belief, the recommendation of daily screen time is NOT 24 hours a day (shocking, I know). It’s actually TWO. Less than two hours of television, phones, tablets, and video games combined is what we recommend. Anything over that really does start to affect vision, sleep, attention, and ability to learn effectively. Use this time of year to set boundaries with your kids, especially teenagers, and then stick to them! Also, take some time to talk to your kids about when it is appropriate to be on electronics. Now more than ever we need to remind kids about why it is important to be present at school, with their friends, and with family, not glued to a screen.
These last few days of summer are also a great time to get your child’s eating habits in check. The beach life surely is a glorious one, but sometimes it makes it easier for us to skip meals, eat quick grab and go style foods, or subsist on whatever is left in the fridge. Eating regular, well balanced meals at the same time is super important for brain development and can play a major factor in a child or teen’s ability to stay focused and learn. Try to make a list of healthy foods that will be easy to prepare in the morning for breakfast and consider packing your child’s lunches to give you more control over what they are eating during the day. Also, make sure there are healthy snacks for when they come home from school and plan dinners ahead of time so you’re less likely to want to grab something quick that may be unhealthy. Pay special attention to teenagers – they often want to skip breakfast, which is undoubtedly the most important meal of the day.
Going to the doctor may be the last thing on your mind this time of year when everyone seems to be so healthy and active, but children need a well visit every year and as they get older a physical is required to play school sports. Now is a good time to check in with your child’s pediatrician and see if they are up to date on their well visit and vaccinations which can save you time and stress later. (Pro tip: teenagers love to wait until the night before try outs to tell you that they need a sports physical. If they are already up to date on their yearly well visits, it’s as easy as filling out a form)
Here’s hoping all of our Outer Banks kids have a great school year!