As the new school year quickly approaches, it's time for parents and their school-aged children to begin tackling their back-to-school to-do lists. Among other things, this should mean a trip to the pediatrician for an annual checkup and discussions about important subjects like study habits and bedtimes.
"While a yearly physical exam may not seem urgent, it is an important part of a child's health care, and the back-to-school season is a convenient and easy-to-remember time to get it in," saids Mark Holyoak, acting CEO at Castleview Hospital. "An annual physical gives your pediatrician a chance to provide your child with a thorough exam. It's also a good opportunity to confirm that vaccinations are up-to-date and address important questions, including adolescent issues like drinking, drugs, sexual activity and depression.
"While many children are involved in school athletic programs and may receive sports-specific exams through their school, these exams shouldn't replace an annual check-up by your family pediatrician, as they tend not to address the child's overall health," he added.
In addition to being an ideal time for an annual physical exam, the back-to-school season is also a great time for families to consider (or reconsider) important subjects like homework and bedtime routines.
"To many children, homework is a cruel (although necessary) part of life that can become easy to neglect," said Holyoak. "While parents may sympathize with their plight, children need to understand that homework is an integral part of the school curriculum and must be attended to regularly and with the utmost attention. By establishing a sound homework routine early on, children will be positioned for success for the duration of their academic lives."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these tips for supporting good study routines in your home:
*Children need a permanent work space that is quiet, well-lit and free from distractions.
*Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic devices (including cell phones, MP3 players and game systems) stay off during homework time.
*Set aside ample time for homework.
*Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child's homework.
*Take steps to help alleviate eye, neck and brain fatigue by taking periodic breaks.
*If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren't able to help him/her yourself, consider a tutor.
In many households, bedtime (much like homework) can be an ongoing battle, but ensuring your child gets enough sleep is critical to his/her growth and development.
"Healthy sleep - meaning sufficient amounts of uninterrupted, regularly scheduled sleep - allows children to function optimally when they are awake. It supports a state in which they are most receptive to and interactive with their environment; have the greatest attention span; and learn the most," says Holyoak. "Not getting enough healthy sleep can result in memory problems, difficulty focusing, weakening of the immune system, depression and even obesity."
While the amount of sleep a child requires can vary depending on a number of factors, consider these general guidelines when determining bedtimes:
*3-6 years old, 10 - 12 hours
*7-12 years old, 9 - 11 hours
*12-18 years old, 8 - 9 hours of sleep per day
To learn more about steps you can take to help your child go back to school with success, talk to your pediatrician or visit healthychildren.org, a resource of the AAP.
This article was submitted by Partners for Community Wellness. Their mission is to "Connect people in the Castle Valley with resources and opportunities to improve their health and wellness". You can access information at http://wellness.carbon.utah.gov.