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Getting back into the school routine

Summer is winding to an end, and after weeks of fun and sun, parents no doubt are looking forward to the start of school with a collective sigh of relief.

During the summer break, it is common for our routine to get out of whack. We are all busy with vacations, travel or sports. Our diets change dramatically, as does our sleep routine. Part of returning to school means getting our routine back. As our children return to the routine of the school year, there are a few tips that will help with the transition and improve the chances for a successful year.

All children are required to have a school exam upon school entry and upon beginning the sixth- grade. Much of that is included in this article and will be discussed during those visits. There are new immunization requirements in Kentucky for the 2018-2019 school year. In addition to currently required immunizations, this school year ushers in a two-dose series of the hepatitis A and a two-dose series of the meningococcal vaccine. Both vaccines have been given routinely for many years, but there are children who may not have received those vaccines that will need to get them. There are some immunizations that are not required for school but are strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics including the HPV vaccine which prevents cervical cancer. Parents should discuss immunizations with their health care provider as part of any well child check.

Also required for children ages 3 to 6 years old upon school entry is a vision and dental exam. Your doctor should be able to facilitate those exams if you do not already have a provider for those services.

If your child plans to participate in school sports, or even if you are unsure but it is a possibility, let your doctor know so that sports forms can be completed at the same time as your well child check-up. This will save parents time and an extra visit to the doctor.

Sleep and nutrition are critical to a successful school year. It can be difficult to transition to a healthy routine for school after a hectic summer. Some of the tips below can be of help.

A healthy sleep routine improves concentration, academic performance, and often helps with behavioral issues as well. Set a consistent bedtime that allows for adequate sleep for their age. Removing all screens (iPads, laptops, phones, gaming systems, and TVs) 30 minutes before bedtime is essential to a healthy sleep routine. Using the week prior to the start of school to gradually transition to a reasonable bedtime helps to reduce the shock of adapting to a new school schedule. Guidelines for sleep can be found at www.healthychildren.org. This is a very useful site from the American Academy of Pediatrics designed specifically for parents.

Paying attention to a healthy diet also contributes to improved academic performance. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Even with hectic mornings and little time before school starts, a nutritious breakfast is an achievable goal. Most schools provide breakfast options. It is worth reviewing the available menu and helping your child make healthy choices. Encourage fresh fruits, vegetables and water; and avoid sugary drinks and calorie dense snacks.

Developing a homework routine helps to reduce stress and frustration that often occurs in the evening. Children need a designated space for doing homework that is free of distractions and noise. Having a set time to do homework is helpful and should be adapted around the family routine. For some children with difficulty with attention, a break during homework time is helpful.

Occasionally bullying is an issue during the school year. If this becomes a problem for your child, there are things you can do. Alert school officials as soon as possible. Work with the school to address bullying concerns and ensure that an adult with authority will help to observe for bullying behavior. Teach your child to be comfortable speaking with adults about their problems. Be aware of your child’s social media presence as this has become a common forum for bullying.

Depression can sometimes be difficult to identify in children but is relatively common. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, and identifying a child at risk may save a life. Symptoms of depression may include prolonged sad or irritable mood, dramatic change in diet or activity, change in sleep habits and isolation from family and friends, among other things. If you have concerns about your child, talk to them and discuss your concerns. Talking to your child’s doctor about your concerns is helpful as well. Many providers have tools to help screen for depression in children and teens. Ensuring adequate sleep, exercise and a healthy diet can help as well.

Getting back into the routine of a new school year can be anxiety provoking but manageable. Hopefully some of the above suggestions will help to make that transition better. Next summer is just around the corner.

Rob Revelette is a pediatrician with the Pediatric Associates-KY One Health in Nicholasville who contributes often to both the Jessamine Life magazine and the Jessamine Journal.