It’s the middle of summer now, but back-to-school time will be here before you know it. As parents, we want to do everything we can to ensure our children have a successful school experience. Here are five ways you can help your child get off to a great start and have a healthy school year.
Make sure your child’s vision is healthy.
Poor vision is one of the largest contributors to learning challenge and school difficulties. If a visit to the eye doctor for a vision check isn’t on your back-to-school list, it should be. Learn more about the importance of eye health for children here.
Make sure your child’s immunization are up to date.
It’s important to know what the rules are in your school district regarding childhood immunizations. Then visit with your child’s pediatrician about which vaccines are right for your child and when they should receive them. To download a free list of recommended childhood vaccines, along with a schedule to help you in this discussion, click here.
Avoid Backpack Injuries
Backpacks are a popular and practical way for students to carry their books and supplies. When used correctly, the backpack’s weight is distributed to some of the body’s strongest muscles, and it can be an efficient way to carry the necessities of the school day. However, if backpacks are too heavy or worn incorrectly, they can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.
To choose the right backpack, look for the following:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation.
- Two shoulder straps. Backpacks with only one cannot distribute weight evenly.
- Padded back. This protects against sharp edges from objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
- Waist strap. It can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
- Lightweight. The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
- Sturdy Construction. Opt for a well-made backpack over a cute one. Not only will it be more comfortable to wear, it will be less likely to tear or give out prematurely, eliminating the need to buy another backpack in the middle of the school year.
To prevent injuries when using a backpack, remind your children of the following guidelines:
- Always use both shoulder straps.
- Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body.
- Pack as lightly as possible.
- Organize the backpack so all of its compartments are being used.
- Stop often at your locker and remove any unnecessary books or items.
- Bend down using both knees while the pack is on.
Parents can also help in the following ways:
Encourage your child or teenager to tell you if he or she is in pain or discomfort because of a heavy load in the backpack.
Talk to the school about lightening the load and/or be sure the school allows for enough time for your child to stop at his or her locker throughout the day.
Researchers found that the average weight of a child’s school backpack was 18 pounds, or 14 percent of his or her body weight. Studies have found that children carrying backpacks exceeding 10 percent of their body weight are more likely to lean forward while walking—potentially increasing their risk of back pain. Talk with your children and make sure they are using their backpacks correctly!
Help Your Child Develop Good Homework and Study Habits
After a long summer, your child may have trouble getting back into the swing of homework. Parents should help children establish healthy study habits as soon as school starts, rather than waiting until they notice problems or until their child’s work load becomes overwhelming. The following tips can help you promote good study habits in your children:
- Set a schedule for when homework will be done. Ideally, your child should have a chance to unwind after school or participate in after-school activities, so he or she feels rested before started homework.
- Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework, such as a permanent work space in the child’s room or in another part of the home that offers privacy.
- Establish a household rule that the TV stays off during homework time.
- Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for him or her.
- Find out what works best for your child. Some work better in several short sessions, while some are more productive completing work in one chunk.
Provide Healthy Snacks and Meals
Brown bagging can often be healthier and less costly than school lunches. Be sure to offer your child healthy breakfast and lunch options to encourage good eating habits and provide fuel for learning.
A good, healthy breakfast has been shown to increase children’s learning abilities and help them stay alert throughout the school day.
Encouraging your children to make—or help make—their school lunches will give your child a sense of ownership over their lunch and increase the likelihood that they will actually eat what they take for lunch.
Providing healthy snack choices for after school will help children recharge after a busy day and give them the energy they need for after-school activities and homework.