Preparing your children for back to school can be overwhelming for parents, but so exciting for the kids! As a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Keionna Brown would like to give 5 tips to keep your child healthy and happy all school year!
Maintain adequate sleep! During the summer months, children’s daily routines change. Summertime creates an opportunity for unstructured bedtimes routines, thus many children tend to stay up late (whether they are allowed to or not). It is important to start the transition back to a normal sleep schedule several weeks prior to the start of the new school year. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following guidelines regarding how much sleep children need at different stages of their development: 12-16 hours for infants, 11-14 hours for toddlers, 10-13 hours for preschoolers, 9-12 hours for school age, and 8-10 hours for teens. Turn off screens (TV, devices, video games) 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Incorporate bedtime rituals (e.g., shower/bath, reading books, quiet time) to help your children relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Avoid lots of toys in your child’s bed; 1-2 stuffed animals and a favorite blanket acceptable. Maintain a neutral ambient temperature throughout your home (not too hot/not too cold). If your child is not getting proper sleep, this can lead to sleep deprivation which can cause many health issues including, but not limited to: headaches, irritability, difficulty concentrating, immune system disfunction, hypertension, obesity, depression, and in children with epilepsy, increased seizure frequency. Children with adequate sleep have overall better school performance, memory, behavior, and mental health.
Prepare healthy, balanced, tasty meals for your children to eat at school. Some schools provide breakfast and lunch for children, and this is great! However, other schools may not offer this service, or if they offer it, your child may not prefer it for one reason or another. To better control what enters your child’s body, get into the habit of meal prepping breakfast and lunch for your child when feasible. Incorporate your child in the cooking and meal prep process. Cooking with your child will most likely spark their interest in cooking, foster bonding, and creates an opportunity for you to teach your child about a lot of different tasty and healthy food choices. Children require an adequate amount of protein, good fats, and carbohydrates. If your child is a picky eater and you have concerns about appropriate intake, talk to your child’s Pediatrician. Together, you can brainstorm and come up with creative ways to help incorporate adequate and appropriate food options for your child. After school, treat your children to healthy snack options (e.g., nuts, granola, yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fruit) while completing homework and awaiting dinner.
Complete the Sports Physical: If you have a child athlete or a child who is involved in physically demanding activities (e.g., snowboarding, jogging, hiking, climbing, and skiing), make sure that you take them for an annual Sports Physical. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this physical should take place 6-8 weeks prior to engaging in the sport/activity. This physical should be performed by your child’s Pediatrician or Primary Care Provider (PCP) or another Provider in the practice who knows your child well. Please avoid going to Urgent Care and other “Mass Physical” locations because these Providers are not fully aware of your child’s health history. During this physical, your child’s PCP will focus on heart health, mental health, bone/joint health, vaccinations, previous history of concussions or head injuries, unique female athlete concerns, and unique disabled athlete concerns. Physical activity is important for all children, thus the goal of this physical is to focus on what your child can do, rather than what they physically are unable to do. Your child’s PCP will discuss the findings with you and make recommendations regarding participation in the sport/activity accordingly.
School Forms: If your child has a chronic medical condition (e.g., epilepsy, asthma, migraine headaches, sickle cell disease, feeding tubes, etc) make sure to have all necessary paperwork completed prior to the start of the new school year. Many children with chronic medical conditions have unexpected missed school days due to acute crisis’ related to asthma, epilepsy, migraine headaches, and sickle cell crisis. To help these children stay in school safely as much as possible, it is important for the School Nurse, Teacher, and School Personnel to be aware of the child’s medical history and in what way to respond during a crisis. If you child has epilepsy, make sure that your child’s PCP fill out his/her seizure action plan which gives guidelines on what to do in that event the child experiences a prolonged seizure while at school or on school bus. For children with asthma, make sure that your child’s PCP fill out his/her asthma action plan which gives guidelines on what to do during an asthma attack or crisis. Headaches can be disabling, thus if there is a plan in place to treat the headache at the onset, rather than waiting and sending the child home. Most schools have their own specific forms, thus contact your school prior to the start of classes to obtain the proper forms (including a form giving School Nurse permission to administer prescribed or over the counter medication).
Safety Habits: Sadly, we live in an era where there children are at risk for kidnapping. Many children walk to school by themselves or in groups or may stand at the bus stop without adult supervision. It is important to start teaching your child at a young age about the staying alert of their surroundings. It is imperative to teach your child about the dangers of strangers. Teaching your child to not talk to strangers and to never get into a car with someone that they do not know is imperative. Most kidnappers persuade children to go along with them by luring them with something enticing (e.g., candy, vide games, devices). The kidnappers may also tell the child that their parent sent them to come and pick them up. Teach your child to never go along with anyone whom they are unfamiliar and if they are in a situation, to scream, and run.
About Keionna Brown
Keionna Brown, RN, MSN, CPNP is a dual certified Acute and Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has more than 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. In her role as Nurse Practitioner, she focuses on advocating for health equality for all. Her clinical expertise is caring for children with epilepsy and helping them reach their full potential in every facet of life. She is active in her community serving on the Professional Advisory Board for the local Epilepsy Association. Along with her sister, Keionna co-founded the Walker Women Educational Foundation, Inc. The mission of this foundation is to empower youth to achieve college readiness by providing mentoring, educational resources, and financial scholarships. To learn more about her non-profit please visit https://www.facebook.com/thewalkerwomen or send her an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Keionna for these important tips! Wishing you love and good health!
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