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Back-to-school tips from Beaumont Children’s Hospital doctors

back to school tipsPreparing the kids to go back to school means more than stuffing backpacks with new supplies and shopping for new outfits. Beaumont Children’s Hospital doctors share their thoughts on what parents can do to put their children in position for a successful and healthy 2014-15 school year.

Sleep, eat, study and de-stress your way to success. Rita Patel, M.D., is associate director of Beaumont’s Pediatric Residency program. She says the most important things parents can do to prepare their children for a new school year are to help them:

  • Get adequate sleep. Most children need about nine hours a night. If they are struggling to wake up in the morning, they aren’t getting enough sleep. Take the electronics, including iPhones, computers, iPads, and TVs out of their bedrooms. Sleep is crucial for all of us, but especially for kids as they are growing and learning.
  • Eat a good breakfast, including some protein. With early start times, many children don’t have time to eat breakfast or are just not hungry that early in the morning. Smoothies with protein powder, toast with peanut butter, protein nutrition bars and egg/muffin sandwiches are all fast and nutritious options.
  • Get enough exercise. Physical health is essential for kids to function at their best. They need 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day.
  • Find a good study space. The most effective studying happens away from the TV and not in a child’s bedroom (it is important to reserve the bedroom just for sleep). This is particularly important for children who are easily distracted.
  • Relieve stress. School can be stressful and it is important for children to have a way to relax. That might be arts and crafts, sports, music, cooking – something that they enjoy doing and makes them feel good. One of Dr. Patel’s children has taken up yoga and loves it.

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Healthy back-to-school snacking. Dr. Patel also offers the following recipe for her favorite easy-to-make back-to-school snack – homemade hummus.

  • 16 oz. can garbanzo beans
  • juice from a large lemon
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Throw everything into a food processor or blender until smooth. Serve with veggies or whole wheat pita. Or, use as a spread for sandwiches to put in lunch boxes.

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Choose the right shoes. If the shoe fits… your child will have a great foundation for a healthy and successful school year. Orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon Zachary Vaupel, M.D., suggests the following for picking the right back-to-school footwear for your child:

  • Find a store with a pedorthotist or a professional shoe fitter, or consider a specialty store if you are purchasing athletic shoes. Employees at these stores are knowledgeable about which shoe is appropriate for the size and shape of your child’s foot. At a minimum, have your child’s foot measured and know that there are variations in shoe size between brands.
  • Try on shoes after exercise or at the end of the day, times when feet are more swollen.
  • Your child should try on shoes with the socks they will be wearing with that particular pair of shoes. There should be a fingerbreadth between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Also, your child’s heel should not slip while walking or running.
  • Lastly, a shoe should be comfortable when it is first tried on. There should not be a break-in period.

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Ask questions about current medications. One of the most important questions parents should be asking their child’s doctor this time of year is “Should any of my child’s medications be changed before schools starts?” According to family medicine physician Stephen Swetech, D.O., the start of the school year is a good time to ask about medication changes because some children take a break on their mediations when they aren’t in school. Some children only require medications to help with their attention span (those with ADHD for example) during the school year, while others may require medications year round. Similarly, Dr. Swetech recommends parents talk to teachers soon after school starts to set the stage for the rest of the year.

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Look for signs of academic regression over the summer. Stefani Hines, M.D., developmental pediatrician and director of Beaumont’s Center for Human Development, advises parents to look out for the “summer slide,” which is often more pronounced for children with learning struggles and disabilities. Children who were able to write their full name, a few sight words and letters of the alphabet at the end of their kindergarten year may forget some of these skills, especially if it took lots of practice and repetition to learn in the first place. If these skills are not practiced and reinforced over the summer, the child with an emerging learning disability may really struggle to re-learn them. One hallmark of a possible emerging learning disability is “had it one day, but gone the next.”

If parents are suspicious about a possible learning disability, they can request a formal evaluation in writing through their school district or pursue a private evaluation through an interdisciplinary program like the one at Beaumont’s Center for Human Development.

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But wait… summer isn’t over just yet, right? Help your family stay safe during those last few summer visits to your local playground. Beaumont Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency physician Kelly Levasseur, M.D., offers several tips in a recent blog – “Keep Your Child Safe on the Playground.”

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