Pediatrician offers back-to-school tips

Aug 14, 2019

Rockport — It is time for back-to-school rituals: finding the perfect backpack, learning class schedules and meeting the new teachers. It is also a great time to think about children’s health.

“Healthy students can focus on learning,” said Dr. Adeline Winkes, a physician at Pen Bay Pediatrics, a practice of Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport.

Winkes and Pen Bay Pediatrics offer the following tips for a healthy start to the school year.

Wash hands, sing a song

The most effective way to avoid spreading or catching germs is hand-washing.

Encourage young children to spend enough time on this important practice by suggesting they sing the alphabet song or “Happy Birthday” from start to finish as they wash the fronts and backs of their hands and between the fingers.

Teenagers may not want to sing, but they should still be encouraged to wash their hands frequently.

Soap and water works best. Hand sanitizers will do when soap and water are unavailable.

Don't forget immunizations

Make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. “In our practice, we follow the recommendation of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the American Academy of Pediatrics for immunizations,” Winkes said. “In addition, we recommend annual flu vaccines for children, unless they have an allergy to the vaccine or other contraindication.”

“We also recommend an annual physical exam to monitor children’s growth and development, whether or not they are due for vaccines,” Winkes said.

Reinstate routines

At least a week before classes start, switch children to bedtime schedules in line with the school year.

“Consider cutting back their screen time,” Winkes said. “Help your child with the transition back to school by encouraging reading or playing quiet games an hour before bedtime.”

Fuel up for learning

Students who eat breakfast are more alert during class than those who do not.

“Eating a healthy breakfast helps your child to do better in school,” Winkes said. “And good nutrition and adequate sleep will help them to fight off illnesses.”

Make sure the backpack fits

Be sure backpacks are not too heavy and that they fit correctly.

“As children advance in grade, they tend to carry more books,” Winkes said. “The weight of these can add up quickly. Encourage them to use lockers at school, when possible, and clean out backpacks regularly, taking out any unnecessary items.”

Backpacks should have wide, adjustable shoulder straps, and children should wear theirs over both shoulders to balance the load, rather than slinging the bag over just one shoulder.

Take a breath

It is understandable that a child might be nervous about changing to a new school, classroom or teacher.

“We encourage parents and students to take advantage of their schools’ orientation offerings, so that kids have every opportunity to meet their teachers and see their classrooms prior to the first day of school,” Winkes said.

If a child seems nervous, remind them that other students are probably uneasy about the first day of school, too. Consider teaching them to take a deep breath and then slow their breathing, which engages the natural relaxation response of our nervous system. This can be a good tool to use any time they feel anxious.

"If anxiety is excessive, especially if it keeps them from enjoying school or participating in activities, call your health care provider to discuss,” Winkes said.

Winkes and the other providers at Pen Bay Pediatrics can be reached at 301-5600.

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