Back-to-School Myth-Busting: Five Tips for School Year Success
Can you smell the new crayons? Do you love the blank pages of thick, spiral notebooks? As a mom of two school-aged kids, this is my favorite time of year. Our family embraces the return of a familiar routine and eagerly anticipates new surprises. It’s also a perfect time to get organized and prepare for fall’s arrival without falling into the trap of these common back-to-school myths.
Myth 1: Older kids don’t need as much sleep.
All parents want to set their kids up for academic, emotional, and athletic success. If there is one thing we can do to help our kids achieve these things, it is to value and enforce a routine bedtime. Sleep is medicine. It promotes healing and memory, supports emotional health, improves cognitive functioning, and allows for optimal athletic performance. For elementary-aged kids, I encourage 10 hours of restful sleep, and high schoolers need at least nine hours of sleep each night. Kids are rarely able to get this much sleep without our help.
As parents, we need to promote a good bedtime routine, provide a comfortable and tech-free sleep environment, and enforce lights-out. Late practices, large academic loads, and other activities can undoubtedly interfere with this goal on some nights. But if you can keep sleep prioritized in your home, your child will see short-term benefits while creating life-long habits that embrace and value sleep.
Myth 2: A sports physical is the same thing as an annual wellness check-up.
Across the country, most schools require student-athletes to get a sports physical before participation. The sports physical typically entails a physical exam and a brief history to identify and limit risks of activity. What a sports physical lacks, however, is time and dedication to whole-child wellness. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a complete annual exam for every child after the age of three years.
During an annual exam with a qualified expert in child health, children have the opportunity to discuss an expanse of issues including sleep, nutrition, media, academic performance, home life, and hobbies. Also, this time allows for particular attention and screening for mental wellness and vaccination status. These visits are longer and often include time for your child to talk privately with the clinician, all while including the necessary components of the sports physical exam. Give your child’s doctor a call to make sure your child is up to date.
Myth 3: The pencil box is the only thing that needs a refresh.
After a busy summer of outdoor play, back-to-school is an excellent time refresh your first-aid kit. It’s essential to be sure you have all the supplies you need, especially as school sports and other activities ramp up. When your child gets a minor cut or scrape, preventing infection should be a priority. Stocking up on a first aid treatment, like Betadine antiseptic, can be your go-to to kill a variety of germs, help prevent infection and support healthy healing. The cream is my favorite – I also like that Betadine has a No-Sting Promise.
In addition to a quality antiseptic product, be sure your medicine cabinet has plenty of bandages and wraps to protect minor cuts and scrapes. Check that your common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, oral anti-histamine, and topical steroid creams are not expired. Finally, keeping up on your stock of insect repellant and sunscreen is always a good idea.
Myth 4: Kids only visit the school nurse when they are sick.
Ask any school nurse and they will tell you that the first few weeks of school are a hectic time. Of course, common playground accidents and unexpected illnesses are the primary business. When kids repeatedly visit the nurse with random complaints, however, it’s time to keep our ears open to other reasons why kids may visit the nurse.
For kids who repeatedly visit the nurse’s office, be open to exploring the possibility that the start of the new year is emotionally difficult for your child. Maybe going to the school nurse is offering respite from a demanding teacher or classroom bully, or has other perceived benefits that your child is unable to articulate. Most commonly, frequent nurse visits for abdominal pain or headaches could indicate symptoms of stress or anxiety. Talk with your child’s doctor if you are worried. We are here to help determine the cause of your child’s discomfort and get him or her on the right track for better school days.
Myth 5: All children need vitamins.
It’s no secret that proper nutrition is the fuel that kids need to grow. As parents, however, our job is simple. We need to offer three balanced meals per day. That’s it! It’s our kids’ job to decide which foods and how much food to eat. As long as your child is growing well, there is no need for additional vitamins or supplements as part of a healthy meal plan.
As you begin this school year, focus on the environment that supports a healthy food relationship. Plan meals together. Try new things. Allow kids to say no. Slow down. Keep meals tech-free. Prioritize family meals at least four times per week. Connecting as a family, while enjoying some simple foods, should allow all of us to gain the physical and emotional nutrition we need to thrive.
Thank you to all the excellent teachers, administrators, support staff, and nurses who devote their time and talent toward our children’s success. I wish all of you a healthy and happy back-to-school season.
I am proud to collaborate with Avrio Health, makers of Betadine antiseptic, who sponsored this post. The content of this post was entirely written by myself, right after I finished shopping for new backpacks and school supplies.