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Quick Take: Back to School

UNLV School of Medicine's Dr. Laura Shaw has tips to get parents and kids alike back in the school-time swing.

Business and Community  |  Jul 25, 2018  |  By UNLV School of Medicine
Children draw

Getting kids back on a bedtime schedule, limiting screen time, and getting doctor's appointments out of the way are all good ways to start the school year.

Like it or not (and parents might like it just a little bit more than kids), back-to-school season is just about upon us. With it comes the return of responsibilities and routine. So how can you get back in the groove as painlessly as possible? UNLV Medicine family physician Dr. Laura Shaw has a few tips to get kids in the best place to make their educational experience as positive as possible:

  • Make sure immunizations, annual wellness visits, sports physicals, and dental visits are completed prior to the start of school. “It’s easier to do in the summer — a little planning means neither school nor a parent’s work has to be missed,” Dr. Shaw said.
  • Appointments for school shots, wellness visits, and physicals can be made through the UNLV Family Medicine Clinic by calling 992-6888 or at the UNLV Pediatric Clinic at 944-2828. Dr. Fermin Leguen, the chief medical officer and director of clinical services for the Southern Nevada Health District, stresses that children, in order to attend school, must have the proper vaccinations. The health district lists them here.
  • Get kids on a routine providing adequate sleep. Start at least a week ahead of the beginning of school. Move bedtime back an hour each day until it allows adequate sleep by age: Age 6 and under,13 hours; age 7-14, 10-11 hours; age 14 and up, 8-9 hours.
  • Minimize the unknown of a new school by checking out the school ahead of time. Go to orientations and look at websites. See if there are kids in the neighborhood that can let your kids know what to expect.
  • Minimize the morning chaos, decreasing everyone’s stress, by agreeing on awake-up time the night before. Work out a warning system if they don’t get up quickly.
  • Plan the morning the night before. Lay out clothes and put backpacks and shoes by the door.
  • Plan ahead menus for meals. Find out what healthy items kids really like, including fruits and vegetables. Recommend older children occasionally make tasty, healthy meals for themselves.
  • Have consistent meal times for kids. Meals too often get skipped because of activities.
  • Bringing a lunch to school is best. If kids don’t, they (particularly teens) often use lunch as a social hour and will only buy junk from vending machines to save time for visiting. Dr. Shaw, who now has three children in college, says that if you make something particularly tasty you could have another problem on your hands. “My one child became an entrepreneur and started selling the trail mix I made him.”  
  • Don’t count on recess or a physical education class for your children to get exercise. Schools have cut back on phys ed. So if your kids aren’t in extracurricular sports, plan active outings or activities to get kids up and moving.
  • Limit electronic time. Being a good parent has always been a challenge, but today it’s even more complicated because of electronic gadgets. No longer is it enough to make sure kids watch appropriate TV programs. Now it’s that and video games and so much more. The internet can be a wonderful tool, but smartphones,  tablets and computers can be used to access a world of unsavory material. Today, as our children go back to school, it is critical that parents communicatie about what it is appropriate. “Online access should be monitored,” Dr. Shaw said. “Children need to know parents have access to phones they’re using. Monitoring cuts down on online bullying.”
  • Parents can restrict internet access on devices. Common Sense Media, often noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a useful website about parental controls.
  • “It’s actually best for many reasons to have an electronic curfew of 10 p.m., to put the electronics in another room for recharging at night,” Dr. Shaw said. She notes that the blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. “You need a technology-free zone so they can get the necessary sleep,” she said. “Otherwise they may well stay up all night texting.”