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Back to School? Keep Kids Healthy and Happy
By Sandeep Kumar,
03:23PM / Wednesday, August 22, 2018
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The new school year can be an adjustment challenge for the whole family but your children's health can remain strong during this busy transition, and on into the school year.

Dr. Sandeep Kumar

"Back to school" is just around the corner for our Berkshire County children. The new school year can be an adjustment challenge for the whole family – but your children's health can remain strong during this busy transition, and on into the school year.

At CHP Berkshire Pediatrics, we'd like to set you and your children and teens on a path to a healthy school season, with some helpful reminders and tips about sleep, stress, food safety and the importance of "downtime." And some advance planning can help to smooth the transition to the school year – regardless of whether you kids are in preschool, high school, or somewhere in between.


Ease the transition with better sleep – starting now.

Start your family's "back-to-school" sleep schedule before school starts. Sleep is among the top "nutrients" for our brains, and lack of sleep could be the first trigger for attention deficit disorder. Getting the right amount of sleep - nine to 11 hours for kids 6 to 13 years old and eight to 10 hours for older kids – is an important building block for school success.  

Set consistent wake-up and bedtimes. Turn off all electronics at least 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime, and charge gadgets outside the bedroom – and this applies mom and dad as well!


Kids of all ages may feel anxious about making friends, getting good grades, or adjusting to a new school or teacher. If an unfamiliar new school is on the horizon, make an advance school visit to reduce your child’s anxiety.
Acknowledge concerns and share ways to deal with specific worries. Reassure your child that he/she can handle the situation, and offer reminders of past success, such as when your child made a new friend or did well on a test. These reminders can boost confidence.


Set a consistent time and place for your child to work each day. Then, stay close by and offer to help if needed. If your child gets stuck on something, don't just provide the answer; work together to solve the problem. Problem-solving teaches children they are capable and self-sufficient.

Healthy Body Image

Many students feel pressure over their appearance and bodies. Media images, peers and parents all have an impact, so focus on positive personal qualities and achievements instead of appearance and help him/her do the same. Encouraging healthy eating, physical activity and positive friendships help your child develop a healthy self-image.

Immunization and medication

Check on the status of your child's immunizations during a check-up or with a call to your medical practice.

If your child needs daily medication during the day, try to meet with school nurse ahead of school, to make the connection. Parents, not children, should deliver medications to the school nurse.

Ask the pharmacy to provide two labeled bottles – one for the school, and another for home.

Stay healthy

Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast are able to focus better throughout the day.

Water is the best source of hydration, so keep it flowing. Many children and teens in particular don't get enough water, and dehydration risks are greater for athletes. Decreases in urination and concentrated, darker urine are signs of dehydration, which can lead to fatigue, headaches and dizziness.

Wash hands. Washing up after using the restroom and recess, and before and after meals or snacks, is great prevention.

Pack lunch when you can. Cafeteria food is super-convenient and must meet federal nutrition standards, but your home-prepared lunch will most likely be better, so try to mix and match.

Lighten the load. Backpacks should be worn on both shoulders and should not be too heavy. Help your student with regular backpack cleanout.

Encourage after-school activities. Children and teens who are involved with extracurricular activities will meet peers with shared interests and adults who aren’t scrutinizing academic performance. They are likely to do better in school and in overall development and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

And finally, encourage unscheduled time in your family. Children and teens, just like adults, need open-ended, uncommitted time to recharge, relax, play and unwind.

There's no prescription for perfect health, but the school transition can go smoothly. Meanwhile, our team of pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners are here for you if you need us. Contact CHP Berkshire Pediatrics at 413-499-8531 for an appointment.

Sandeep Kumar, M.D., is a pediatrician at CHP Berkshire Pediatrics in Pittsfield.

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