Back-to-school health assignments for you, your kids and your family physician
New clothes, shoes, school supplies and even the latest technological gadgets and gizmos can only go so far in getting kids ready for school. To keep your kids healthy and ease the transition, you, your child and your family physician all need to be on the same proverbial page. Here’s how to get there:
Parents: Cover the basics
√ Schedule physical exams. Annual physical exams are the perfect opportunity for physicians and parents to discuss family health history, disease prevention and other developmental concerns. “If we see children regularly, we can work with their parents to make a difference in their child’s health,” says Eric Niemeyer, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates. “If we can make interventions earlier in a child's life, the odds are higher that they’ll stick.”
√ Stick to the vaccination schedule. Annual physical exams are the ideal time to schedule vaccines. “Getting your child vaccinated on schedule not only prevents your child from getting sick, but may prevent other kids from getting the illness,” Dr. Niemeyer says. Learn what vaccinations are recommended for your child by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
√ Contact the school. Introduce yourself to your child’s school principal, nurse, counselors and teachers, and share your contact information with them. Find out if the school has any specific health requirements and learn about its policies on attendance, discipline and clothing.
Kids: Start preparing for school
√ Go to bed at a decent time. Getting the right amount of sleep is vital for concentration, immune function and behavioral health. “A good, general rule is to get at least eight hours of sleep. However, more may be needed during growth spurts and their adolescent years,” Dr. Niemeyer says. Start your “bedtime” routine a few weeks before school starts and stick to it. Your body and brain will thank you.
√ Make time for breakfast. You’ve heard it’s the most important meal of the day, but do you know why? “Foods with fiber and protein – like yogurt, fruit or healthy cereals – will make you feel full for longer and provide energy to stay alert and process information,” Dr. Niemeyer says.
√ Take on responsibilities. Enjoy your summer, but don’t get lazy. Having chores – such as washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, walking the dog or keeping their room clean – will help keep you prepared for school. “If you have chores to do every week, it’s going to be easier to make the transition back to a more structured situation, like school,” Dr. Niemeyer says.
√ Manage your time wisely. Before you sign up for after-school activities, ask yourself if you can truly balance them with schoolwork, family time and your duties at home. Figure out how much free time you have each week, give yourself a time budget and plan your time accordingly.
What your physician can do
√ Open the lines of communication. From overall physical health to behavioral problems, physicians are a great resource. “Primary care physicians need to see children at the critical points in their development, so we can make sure they’re making healthy life choices,” Dr. Niemeyer says.
√ Help prevent serious conditions. Most physical exams consist of a thorough health history review, height/weight check and muscular-skeletal exam. But when necessary, physicians can screen for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, as well as for behavioral conditions such as attention deficit disorder.
√ Have a physician for life. Annual exams shouldn’t end when high school does. Family physicians can help teens prepare physically and mentally for college. “When students head off to college, there is a new set of topics to discuss around making healthy and safe choices. We can help parents with that conversation,” Dr. Niemeyer says.
The physicians with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates can help you and your children transition back to school and stay healthy all year long. To find a physician, call 877-904-4YOU or visit TheChristHospital.com.