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Promoting Student Health and Wellness

Going back to school is an exciting time for both children and parents. However, it can also be confusing and stressful for families as they work to ensure their students have everything they need to succeed in the classroom and stay healthy during the next nine months.

Josiah Reish, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Cameron Memorial Community Hospital, knows supporting students in our community involves more than just encouraging high grades and test scores – it also means providing them with tools to be their best mentally and physically throughout the school year. That’s why Josiah has shared a roundup of recommendations on how families, caregivers and friends can holistically support their students this year.

Food First

While kids love sweet treats and snacks, it’s important to feed them nutritious food that will sustain them throughout the school day.

Starting the day on the right foot is important. Encourage healthy breakfast habits by providing such low sugar options as oatmeal, fruit smoothies, eggs and Greek yogurt and avoiding regular consumption of pancakes, waffles, doughnuts and sugared cereals.

Milk is also a great fuel source for children and adolescents. For toddlers, Reish recommends 2-3 cups of milk every day. For older children, shoot for 12-16 ounces of low fat or fat free milk a day. This helps to increase vitamin D and calcium intake, which are essential for bone growth.

During snack time, students should pack granola bars, fruits, veggies, or easy proteins like cheeses to help carry them through the rest of the day.

In general, parents should try to limit juices to 4-6 ounces a day and cut back on desserts and soda.

Physical Well-Being

Be sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations. For kindergartners (ages 4-6), vaccines should be administered for measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), polio and DTaP (diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, also known as whooping cough). Tdap, which is the booster for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis, as well as a first shot for meningococcal disease, should be administered to children ages 11 and 12. Students ages 16-18 should receive boosters for meningococcal A and B.

Josiah also recommends routine flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 has been a leading cause of death among children since 2020,” he said. “The National Center for Health Statistics found it’s the fifth leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4.”

COVID-19 immunizations for children ages 5 and older can be scheduled at the Cameron Immunization Clinic. For those under age 5, parents can make an appointment with the Steuben County Public Health Department.

 

Regular physical activities are also important for a child’s development. Josiah recommends at least one hour of physical activity a day. As students get older, recesses and break times during the school day are limited, which decreases the amount of time they spend being active.

Kids are more likely to exercise if others are doing it with them, so parents can encourage daily movement by getting the whole family involved. Family walks and bike rides are great ways to motivate children and keep yourself active too. Join the Steuben County YMCA and add swimming, exercise classes and basketball to a child’s workout routine for variety.

Don’t forget to prioritize sleep. Josiah suggests following the CDC’s recommended sleep chart to make sure your students are getting the appropriate amount of sleep at any given age.

Establishing rules for bedtime can help maximize quality sleep time. “It is important to have consistency in the time a child goes to sleep each night and in their bedtime routine,” Josiah said. “Included in this routine should be a set time to turn off screens.” He explained reducing exposure to screens and blue light before bedtime can help promote a restful night.

Mental Check-in

No matter a student’s age, school-related anxiety is prevalent and can easily disrupt academic success. Parents can talk through mild versions of school phobia with their children, but more severe symptoms might call for expert care. These include vague abdominal pain and headaches, feeling nauseous and even vomiting. If any of these symptoms become evident, Josiah advises parents to seek an evaluation from their pediatrician and consider adolescent therapy. Parents should also work with the school to communicate these concerns, as anxieties can stem from bullying or a feeling of failing in the classroom.

Other areas of self-care can help your student thrive at school. Routine showering and bathing are crucial to overall wellbeing. Introduce deodorant as a regular habit, especially for kids going through puberty. Brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

The little things make the biggest difference. Don’t forget to praise your children and encourage them to make wise, thoughtful decisions in life. Lead by example through healthy eating and regular exercise, and let them know you are there to talk about whatever is on their mind.

For more information about Josiah and Cameron Pediatrics, visit cameronmch.com/services/pediatrics or call (260) 667-5690.

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