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Community Advocacy Organization

Giving Kids a Head Start at Getting Back-to-School Ready

Courtesy of McLaren

School is the last thing kids typically want to think about in the middle of summer break, but a mid-Michigan doctor says it is the perfect time to prepare them for the inevitable. Sleep schedule changes Ah, summer. It’s like a three-month-long weekend for most school-age kids, especially regarding their sleep schedules. Kids tend to stay up later at night and wake up later in the morning during the summer months. Rachel Schraft, NP at McLaren Greater Lansing Okemos Community Medical Center, says the change is not necessarily a bad thing. “The key is to keep the bedtime routine consistent during the summer, whatever that may be,” Schraft said. The goal is ensuring kids get enough sleep; how much they need depends on age and activity level. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours.

  • School-age children (ages 6-12) need 9-12 hours.

  • Teenagers (ages 13-18) need 8-10 hours.

While kids tend to dive into summer sleep routines, shifting back to school hours can be challenging. It helps to start easing children back into a school sleep schedule about a week or two before school starts. “It’s best when parents slowly adjust sleep schedules when heading back to school,” Schraft said. “Have your child wake up 15 minutes earlier and go to sleep 15 minutes earlier than they typically do. Continue making 15-minute shifts every few days until your child sleeps and wakes at the correct times for school.” Kids can also benefit from good sleep hygiene or habits that will help ensure quality sleep:

  • Keep all electronic devices out of children’s bedrooms and stop screen time at least an hour before bedtime.

  • Keep the lights in your home dim toward bedtime.

  • Keep bedroom temperatures cooler.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of physical activity during the day.

Keeping health in check During the pandemic, many children missed recommended checkups and vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend getting children caught up on routine vaccinations before returning to school. “Some uncommon diseases in the United States are still common in other parts of the world, and you don’t need to travel internationally to be exposed,” Schraft said. “Because of this, children should follow the recommended vaccine schedule to ensure they are protected.” Kids should also stay up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines since back-to-school time coincides with cold and flu season. That means this is also an excellent time to remind kids about one of our best defenses against disease spread: regular handwashing. Protection on the field If your child is an athlete, now is the time to schedule a sports physical. These are typically good for one year. “Sports physicals help us determine if it is safe for a child to play a certain sport and identify and treat any potential health risks that could lead to an injury or prohibit performance,” Schraft said. “For example, if you have frequent asthma attacks, we can adjust your medicines so you can breathe more easily when you run.” During a sports physical, a doctor will want to learn whether your child has the following:

  • medical problems that run in the family

  • existing medical problems

  • allergies

  • past injuries

  • dizziness, chest pain, or trouble breathing during exercise

Getting ready to head back to class may not be your child’s idea of summer fun, but the good news is it will not make summer end any sooner. To schedule a well-child appointment, vaccine, or sports physical with Rachel Schraft, NP, click here. For more articles on health and wellness, click here.

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