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October 9, 2017

More Back to School Tips; Child Care, Homework, and Lunch!

Happy Fall!! Welcome to another edition of the pediatric blog. I know last week’s blog was very long, but I hope you found it very informative. My hope is that you also discussed some of the tips with your children or that it helped generate some discussions. This week we are going to finish up our back to school tips, especially since school is much underway now. After the lengthy blog last week, I will try to keep this one shorter, so let’s jump right in.

Before and After School Child Care: 

  • During early childhood (age 3-8) and middle childhood (age 9-11), children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, make sure you communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by you (the parent) regarding schedules, discipline, and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11-12-year olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age. Up until these ages, and even at these ages, there is still a lack of adequate decision making, especially when placed in or facing a dangerous situation.
  • If alternative adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a parent by phone or with a trusted neighbor.
  • If you choose an afterschool program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, trained persons to address health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Developing Good Homework and Study Habits: 

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; don’t forget to build this time into the routine when children are participating in after-school activities, such as sports or gymnastics for example.
  • Establish a house rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use, especially since by high school it is not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer.
  • If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for him/her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue, and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • For general homework problems that cannot be worked out with the teacher, a tutor may be considered.
  • Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parent supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments- such as an assignment notebook.

Eating During the School Day: 

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if your school does not, make sure your child eats a breakfast that contains some protein.
  • Most schools regularly send cafeteria menus home or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced price food at school, including breakfast. The forms for these services usually can be found at the school office or are sent home with all children.
  • Many school districts have plans which allow you to pay for meals through an online account, eliminating the need for your child to carry money to school. Your child is given a number or a card to swipe to pay for their meal. This is a convenient way to handle school meals and to track your child’s food purchases.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts, and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the USDA. They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Also consider nutrition if your child brings their food/lunch to school from home. Packing a well-balanced lunch with fruit, veggies, and protein will help keep your child’s energy level up and get them through the rest of the school day.
  • Remember – each 12 ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%! Choose healthier options, such as water and appropriately sized juice boxes to send in your child’s lunch.

That is it for this week. Hopefully you feel like this was a much quicker and easier read. Again this concludes our three part series on back to school tips. Keep checking back in as we will start covering a different topic each week. With cold and flu season upon on us I think we will start next week with information about this year’s flu shot as well as who should get the flu shot. So check back in for this very important topic.

Written By: Christopher Elkins, CPNP

Practitioner Elkins was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board). He sees patients from birth to 21 years of age Christopher and his wife Erin have an 8-year-old son, Everett and are expecting another baby boy in October 2017. Christopher and his family enjoy traveling to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall; enjoy the beaches during the summer, and concert-going all year round.

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