Kaiser Presents Back to School Basics: The ABC’s for a Healthy & Successful School Year

South San Francisco, CA    August 19, 2015   Submitted by Joe Fragola Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre program that took place at SSF's Los Cerritos Elementary school in the playground

Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre program that took place at SSF’s Los Cerritos Elementary

By Mira Cheung, MD, Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center

It’s that time of year when parents are getting children ready for school. Whether your child is entering school for the first time or about to begin his or her senior year, now is the perfect time to prepare them for the upcoming school year. Here’s how you can help ensure the year ahead is healthy and productive for your young student.

A list of immunizations

The proper immunizations can protect your child from common childhood diseases and other contagious illnesses throughout the school year.

Most school-aged children receive several required vaccinations at ages 4 or 5, just before entering kindergarten. Students entering 7th grade also must have the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) booster shot before entering school. A Tdap vaccination protects against whooping cough, a highly-contagious bacterial disease.

Other immunizations can protect against chicken pox, Hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A flu vaccine – available starting in mid to late October – also can help your child avoid the flu, which is highly contagious, and can help ward off outbreaks at schools.

Begin to get plenty of rest

This also is a good time to get your child on a regular bedtime schedule. Children need at least 8 to 10 hours a sleep a night. Some may have a hard time adjusting to the early morning start of school, so it’s a good idea to get them used to waking up early now. Encourage children to set an alarm so they are waking up at the same time every day. Having a restful night’s sleep will lead to a more focused student.

Cut out the junk food

A healthy diet – with plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day – will help children stay fit and keep them energized. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast can reduce the urge to snack on less nutritious items such as chips and cookies. Children also need a healthy lunch to sustain them throughout the school day. When packing a school lunch for your child, avoid foods that are high in sugar. Pack a bottle of water rather than juice or soda. Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads. Opt for low or non-fat dairy products. A healthy lunch doesn’t necessarily need to come from home. Many school cafeterias are now offering healthier options such as salad bars, fresh fruit and foods lower in sodium or fat.

Deal with stress

For some students, the school year may bring on stress dealing with new teachers, classmates and, in some cases, a new school. Stress is normal, but if it happens too often or lasts too long, it can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, back pain and trouble sleeping. It can also make your child moody, depressed or tense. Talk to your children about how they are feeling as they get closer to starting school. Make sure they know that there are ways to deal with their stress. Teach them time management techniques. Help them to unwind with a hobby or a good book. Offer to work through problems together. If they are unwilling or uncomfortable speaking with you, suggest they talk to a school counselor or find a professional mental-health specialist for them to see.

Exercise your body and your mind

Many students have had a fun summer attending camps, participating in sports, or taking extra classes. Others may have had leisure time hanging out at home. Now it’s time to get back in shape both mentally and physically. Consider a regular family walk, a bike ride, or a run. The key is to get outside and move! Also consider making time for reading each day and reviewing math. These “warm up” activities will help your children feel more confident the first few weeks of school.

Dr. Mira Cheung is a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center.  CLICK HERE for her “My Doctor Online” home page for your convenience:

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