CHRISTUS Health tips to help parents, students gear up for new school year

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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It’s back-to-school season for students across Texas, which means there will be some major adjustments families may need to work through.

Those adjustments do not have to cause a huge disruption in a child’s life or health, if parents learn how they can help their student get situated ahead of time.

A big change for children as they make the switch from summer mode to school is their sleep.

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The demands of back-to-school schedules can make getting adequate sleep seem daunting. However, it is possible and essential for a calmer, more productive school year.

“Sleep is so important for everyone, but especially for kids, as they grow and develop,” said Dr. Will Pickard, family medicine physician with CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic. “Consistent lack of sleep leads to a sleep deficit, which can make it harder for kiddos to focus on schoolwork and other activities.”

Pickard suggests starting a child’s new bedtime routine days, if not weeks ahead of the start of school.

He said parents can slowly adjust their child’s bedtime by 30-minute increments to get them accustomed to the bedtime they’ll have throughout the school year.

Adequate sleep can also play a big role in a child’s immune system. As students go from their home back into a public environment with a lot of other kids, it’s typical that some children get sick.

“It’s important for parents to focus on healthy habits to help boost their child’s immune system ahead of and even during the school year,” Pickard said.

She said there are some key elements to keep in mind: a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, good hygiene, stress management, staying hydrated and remaining up to date on vaccinations.

“All of these play a vital role in keeping our little ones healthy, so it’s important to ensure we’re loading them up on nutrient rich food that will provide them with the necessary vitamins to help fight germs,” said Pickard. “But we need to also continue teaching our children to properly wash their hands frequently and to stay home when they’re feeling ill.”

Another back-to-school tip for parents is to ensure their kids are wearing their backpacks correctly, to avoid any damage to their spines.

“The weight of the textbooks and notebooks in a backpack can really weigh a child down, ultimately affecting their spine, negatively,” said Dr. Ian Angel, a spine specialist with CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic. “A child’s spine isn’t fully developed until they’re about 18.”

He said parents should look for backpacks that have padded shoulder straps and even a chest strap to help distribute the weight of the backpack throughout the child’s upper body.

“It’s also important to find backpacks with a reflective element so children are visible to any traffic as they wait for their bus outside or if they’re walking to and from school,” said Angel.