Can you say stress?
For some moms and dads that tension is heightened because a new school is involved, high school is beginning, or perhaps it’s college and your child is going away from home for the first time.
Nina Radcliff, MD, a physician and leading doctor-reporter, contributing weekly columns and often appearing on broadcast segments, says if you’re a dad feeling all that then you’re in good company. She says there are things we all can do to make things better.
“Whether students are starting kindergarten or entering college – communication is vital in the transition and planning. Shifting from summer to school is a time of jitters with anticipation of what is ahead,” says Dr. Radcliff. “Refresh positive memories on the way for everyone involved and take time in this transition to enjoy new adventures and maintain a healthy balance amongst all the activities.”
She shared with Daddyhood some stress-reducing back to school tips for parents:
1. Schedule a Family Meeting
We dads love to call family meetings. This is a time for one. Meet with your kids and talk. Plan a family meeting where everyone can share their thoughts and concerns on the upcoming transition back-to-school. Whether entering preschool or K through college, you’ll be able to hear concerns and pick-up cues of any related worries or activities that need to be addressed. Keep the tone fun with everyone interacting with a calendar that will not only circle back-to-school and related activities, but also mark pleasurable events at school, including upcoming breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
– Communication is vital and as you move forward, keep everyone involved by continuing regular discussions addressing the back-to-school agenda of: needed supplies; school clothes; dress codes; packing backpacks; sleep hygiene; upcoming appointments (to visit school, doctors, shopping); extra-curricular activities and safety; homework zones; and planning healthy routines (including eating, daily exercise, sleeping, and insights to help stop the spread of germs).
2. Plan Ahead and Schedule Appointments
Schools require health information every year for entering students and as a result, physician offices get extremely booked during back-to-school time. Schedule appointments for annual physicals, vaccinations and vision tests as soon as possible. If your child needs to take any medicine during school hours, it is a good time to help youngsters to understand what the school policy is for administering medications.
–On vaccinations, be aware that schools look at vaccination history since birth. Talk with a physician to insure vaccinations are current; immunizations can help to protect children from potentially harmful diseases.
– Keep your eyes open when it comes to vision. Healthy vision is important to all aspects of student’s lives: schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, confidence, and safety. Some doctors recommended eye exams every 2 years if no vision correction is required with yearly exams for those with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
3. Eat Right and Exercise to Stay Healthy
Each day, at least an hour of activity (movement, play or exercise), a healthy diet (steer away from junk food, don’t skip breakfast and reach for more fruit and veggies); and lots of sleep (about 9-10 hours) will go a long way in supporting immune systems and overall well-being. Research shows that these healthy habits can help to defend against illness and support overall balance more than those that are lacking sleep or have unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles. Plan to start good back-to-school habits a week before to help everyone benefit from the rewards and make a smooth transition.
– Elementary school-aged children need 10 hours of sleep, while middle school through high school-aged need 9 1/4 hours (college students should shoot for 8 hours).
– Lots of activities want to carve into sleep, but maintaining good “sleep hygiene” is paramount to calming and setting the mood to fall asleep (and stay asleep) in order to be alert and at peak performance during the day.
– Encourage relaxing and soothing behaviors (have the entire family power down televisions, put away smartphones, tablets, etc.) to decompress and engage in calming activities such as reading, quiet relaxing or listening to music.
– Start every day with a healthy breakfast (staying away from sugary doughnut type of foods). It has been shown that students that eat a healthy breakfast perform better in the classroom because they have better concentration, problem-solving skills, endurance, hand-eye coordination and increased strength for tasks.
– Lunchtime requires some planning and creativity to ensure balanced meals that include more fruit, more veggies and proteins.
– Keep students involved in the selection process (grocery store visits and in the kitchen) as it is an investment that reaps profitable dividends while learning about wise choices in the process.
4. Keep Hands Clean
Most common school ailments are viruses and they are passed around at schools. In fact, germs lurk everywhere–we just cannot see them and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most kids experience six to 12 illnesses each year ranging from mild to severe. The research shows that it is beneficial to practice good health etiquette in order to help protect against the spread of germs. Younger students need reminders about how to react when the urge to cough or sneeze arises by covering the mouth or nose and to wash hands afterwards. Always follow the school’s guidelines as to when sick kids should be kept home.
– While not all inclusive, as a general rule a temperature over 100.5, a sudden rash, severe cough, sore throat, diarrhea or vomiting, stay home and consult a doctor
– A wash refresher: Wet hands; soap; rub hands vigorously together (don’t forget fingernails); rub 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice); rinse under running water; and if possible, use a paper towel to turn the faucet off and open the door
– Although soap and water have been shown to better sabotage the intentions of most germs, antibacterial wipes are a good consideration for convenience at school
5. Think about Safety
– Backpacks that have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back are recommended. Keep it light by using all of its compartments and by packing heavier items closest to the center of the back (backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight and should always be carried with both shoulder straps)
– Younger children should always walk to school with an adult – as they get older, it may be acceptable to walk by themselves, but a buddy system is always preferable
– Identify a safe route with intersections that have safety guards even if it means a slightly longer walk (review the route beforehand)
– and provide a reminder to never push, shove, or chase near the street
– While it has been said before, it bears repeating to provide younger students with reminders to never take rides (gifts or food) from strangers or anyone not on the approved list that has been discussed at home
– When riding a bus, review the need to arrive early, stay out of the street, take a seat, and always stay seated quietly (with arms and hands inside the bus) until the bus comes to a safe stop
– For students that ride bikes to school, ensure they wear a helmet (and appropriate gear) that meets safety standards; research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.
– For college bound students, it is important to be familiar with the area and have good support systems to help navigate around campus (as well with new high school drivers); both may benefit with a gentle reminder to leave earlier
– Most colleges today offer safety escorts during evening hours – students need to know how to contact the college safety department and become familiar with the services provided
– As a community it is important to watch out for students at intersections, driveways and keep an eye out in our neighborhoods
– Ensure school bound students have appropriate understandings about contact information including the contact information of another trusted, designated (approved) adult, as well as a clear understanding how to call 911 for emergencies
– Review understandings about bullying including what it is, what to do (including saying stop and walking away) and that if it does not stop, report it to a school teacher or administrator as well as always share bullying incidents with mom and dad (that day).