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Preparing for a healthy return to school

JERMELIAH MARTIN, MD
Guest Columnist

Summer time is filled with lazy days and late nights for many kids. The kids have had their fill of summer camp, days at the beach, and travel ball.   Now it’s time for the school year to begin.  Back to school is an exciting and busy time for kids and their families.  New schools for some and new challenges for all require that children be well-rested and well-nourished.
Sleep is very important for children especially during the school year.  An adequate amount of rest is required for them to be able to focus on the day’s lesson and store it in their memory. Sleep deprivation affects not only school performance but also behavior. It is well known that children who lack a good night’s rest may have problems with transitions, which occur throughout the day at school, and attention span. Kindergarteners need about 10-11 hours of sleep per night. They will no longer get the 2-hour naps that some of them were accustomed to at daycare or preschool, so this nightly rest will be even more important. 7-12 year olds (1st-6th graders) should get about 9-10 hours of sleep at night.  12-18 year old kids (middle and high school) need about 8-9 hours of sleep. With after school sports and activities, this amount of rest can seem impossible, but with some creative scheduling this may be more feasible.  Schoolwork is the priority, so make sure that homework is done right after school and before any extra activities.
If their activities are scheduled until late in the evening try to have an early dinner if possible.  Make a goal for bedtime and try to stick to it!  A good bedtime routine is necessary for a good night’s rest. A typical routine might include a bath or shower, brushing their teeth, a story (even older kids like to be read to) and then to bed. No matter what their specific routine is, it’s important that it be consistent.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is an old saying but still very true. Nutrition is important for school success.
Children should have breakfast every morning to ensure that their brains are able to process all of the valuable information they learn during the school day. It is also necessary to give them the energy they need to stay awake and alert throughout the day.
If you can’t provide them breakfast at home due to a busy morning routine, ensure that they eat the breakfast provided at school. For many children, lunch comes later in the day than their little bodies are used to. Many teachers allow a mid morning snack to hold them over until lunch.
Make sure to pack them a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, granola bar or carrot sticks.
If you pack a lunch for them to eat at school, include at least 1 fruit or vegetable. Try substituting baked chips for regular, and if you include a sweet treat make sure it is a small serving.
These tips will not only keep your child energized for school but they will learn to make healthy choices when choosing lunch on their own in the cafeteria.
As the school year begins, set your child up for success by ensuring quality sleep and nutrition.
Dr. Jermeliah Martin works with Pediatric Medical Associates.

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