Holiday Mental Health Tips

The holidays can be a happy time of year for many people, as they gather with family and friends, exchange gifts and celebrate traditions. But the changes in family routines and extra demands on time can also cause some added stress, especially for children and parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips to help your family enjoy the best of the holiday season:

  • During the busy holiday time, try to keep household routines the same. Stick to your child’s usual sleep and mealtime schedules when you can, which may reduce stress and help your family enjoy the holidays.
  • Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. Children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parents and caregivers. Coping with stress successfully can help children learn how to handle stress better, too.
  • Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time. Try a few ideas to balance the hustle and bustle of things like shopping, cooking, and family get-togethers during the holidays: Stop and pay attention to what is happening at the moment, focus your attention on one thing about it, and notice how you are feeling at the time. Withhold immediate judgment, and instead be curious about the experience.
  • Give to others by making it an annual holiday tradition to share your time and talents with people who have less than you do. For example, if your child is old enough, encourage him or her to join you in volunteering to serve a holiday meal at your local food bank or shelter, or sing at a local nursing home. Help your child write a letter to members of the armed forces stationed abroad who can’t be home with their own family during the holidays.
  • Remember that many children and adults experience a sense of loss, sadness or isolation during the holidays. It is important to be sensitive to these feelings and ask for help for you, your children, family members or friends if needed.
  • Don’t feel pressured to over-spend on gifts. Consider making one or two gifts. Help your child make a gift for a parent, grandparent, or other important adults and friends. Chances are, those gifts will be the most treasured ones and will teach your child many important lessons.
  • Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are–time to enjoy with your family. So, be a family, do things together like sledding or playing board games, and spend time visiting with relatives, neighbors and friends.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


National Family Literacy Month

Did you know the single greatest indicator of children’s success is the literacy level of their parents? Did you know that parental involvement in their child’s reading has been found to be the most important determinant of language and emergent literacy?

November 1st kicks off National Literacy Month. First designated in 1994, the event is meant to bring awareness to the importance of family literacy through the encouragement and education of both parents of and caregivers for children, and focuses on the powerful lifelong learning ripple effect they can ignite simply by participating in their children’s literacy practices.

Here is what research has demonstrated regarding that ripple effect:

  • Success in reading is a gateway to success in other academic areas.
  • The earlier parents get involved in a child’s literacy the better, and the longer lasting the effects. Parental literacy involvement continues to be a top predictor of achievement into the teen and adult years.
  • A day focused on literacy can promote literacy across an entire community.

Here are some innovative ideas for celebrating National Literacy Month:

  1. Get Older Siblings Reading to Their Younger Siblings. It’s great practice for big bro or big sis to explain big words or summarize the story, and it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate a love of reading to little bro or sis.
  2. Practice Reading “Popcorn” Style. Each family member can read a page or two and then “popcorn pass” to the family member of their choice.
  3. Take Turns choosing the book or the book reading location of the night.
  4. Plan Themed Reading Nights. Pitch a tent in the living room and “camp out” while you read, or build a “bear cave” fort and read books about bears. Let your imagination take your themes to the next level.
  5. Incorporate Fun Accessories. Make your own bookmarks or sand timers. Invest in kid-friendly reading lights.
  6. Involve Distant Family and Friends. Books can be read aloud over FaceTime or Skype. Record your child reading their favorite book and send the video to loved ones.
  7. Read and Watch. Choose a book that has been turned into a movie. Read the book first and then schedule a family movie night to see the book come to life on the screen.
  8. Schedule It. Reading should be an activity as important as our kids’ various practices, lessons and play dates. If it’s on the calendar, it will become a higher priority.
  9. Book Swap. Get other families involved in a periodic book swap where kids can lend and borrow books from friends in the neighborhood or other social circles.
  10. Dinner Talk. Books can be a topic of discussion at family dinner. Ask family members to share about the latest books they’ve enjoyed, or how the plot is twisting in their latest chapter book.

From “20 Ways to Celebrate National Family Literacy Day,” by Jessica Slusser. For more information, visit the Getting Smarter website.

Halloween Safety Tips

​Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure they have a safe holiday.

All Dressed Up

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.​
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost.

Carving a Niche

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

Home Safe Home

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind trick-or-treaters:
  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out of driveways.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Healthy Halloween

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween.​

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Easing Infants & Toddlers into Halloween Fun

If you are celebrating your little one’s first, second, or third Halloween this year, it is important to know how to make the night safe and fun for even the tiniest monsters!

Here are 8 Tips for a Smooth and Safe Halloween with Little Ones:

1. Allow for plenty of time to fright-prep.
As a parent, you know your child best. Keep a look out for fears and anxieties about Halloween. The best way to handle fear and get a toddler ready is to discuss what’s going to happen. Reading books and stories to your child about trick-or-treating—and Halloween in general—are great ways to help that discussion. You might even want to have your child practice in his or her costume before the big day. Toddlers need to know that Halloween is just for fun and the scary stuff is all pretend. If your little one doesn’t want to partake in Halloween, then let that be okay. There is always next year, and 12 months can make a big difference!

2. Play with pumpkins.
Allowing your baby or toddler to squish his or her hands around the insides of a pumpkin can be a great sensory activity. For little ones who “hate getting dirty,” there are plenty of no-carve pumpkin decorating options to try.

3. Go out before dark.
Infants and young children thrive on routine, and it is easy for Halloween festivities to throw those routines off-track. If your schedule permits, try trick-or-treating while it’s still light outside so you can stick to your child’s regular bedtime. If your child is sleeping, try putting a “please knock” sign on your door for other trick-or-treaters.

If Halloween doesn’t start until after dark where you live: Check your local newspaper or recreation center for Halloween activities offered earlier in the day.

4. ​Watch for tripping-toddler hazards.
Even on their best days and in the best conditions, it is still a struggle for some toddlers to walk without falling. While you won’t be able to prevent all of the tumbles, choosing a costume that is not too long or too bulky will help a great deal. Be sure to check the forecast before you go out and try to include layers if needed. Also remember to help your little one climb up and down any steps and porches.

5. Always have a “Plan B” costume.
From leaky diapers to spit up to toilet training accidents, this age is always reason to pack a backup costume and plan for the unexpected. If potty-training is still a new thing and there’s a narrow window between “I have to go” and an accident, you might want to rethink a complicated costume. There is also no harm in putting him or her in an easy-on, easy-off diaper.

6. Be ready to pack it in early if needed.
A house or costume that’s too scary, a trip or a fall, or just a hard day can send your child into the temper-tantrum zone. But all is not lost! If your toddler quickly loses interest in trick-or-treating, see if he or she would prefer to answer the door and hand out candy to all the “big kids” instead. Plus, it can help you reinforce those important sharing skills!

7. Take precautions with added sugar.
Although Halloween and sugar often go hand in hand, the AAP recommends limiting the amounts of sugar kids get each day. This may not be an easy task when most Halloween treats are packed with added sugar and artificial colors your little one doesn’t need. Look out for snacks and treats that may seem “healthier” but still contain added sugars—flavored yogurts, flavored milks, sugary cereals, granola bars, juices, and fruit gummy snacks. Other options for trick-or-treating toddlers, or those who choose not to give out candy, include crayons and notepads, stickers, stamps, chalk, bubbles, tattoos, playdough, or stuffed animals.

If your baby is six months or older and is just starting solid foods: You can get him or her into the Halloween spirit with some pumpkin purees. Whether canned, frozen or fresh, pumpkin is packed with nutrients for your growing baby—beta-carotene, vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, and more. Other fall-themed options include butternut squash, sweet potato, or roasted apple purees. You can even mix in a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg to add in fall-inspired flavors.

Ideas for older toddlers: Seasonal treats may include soft bites of roasted apples or apple sauce, baked sweet potato fries dusted with cinnamon, apple zucchini muffins, pumpkin-inspired smoothies, or fruit ice pops made with fun Halloween molds.

​​8. Watch for any treats that can be a choking hazard.
Keep an eye on what your child has in his or her mouth at all times while on the trick-or-treat trail—it’s so easy to get distracted! It’s best to avoid eating while walking or running. Once your child is ready to enjoy treats at home, keep in mind that babies and toddlers should not have any hard candies, caramel apples, popcorn, gum, small candies (jelly beans, etc.), gummy candy, pumpkin seeds, or anything with whole nuts. Candy wrappers, stickers, small toys, or temporary tattoos can be a choking hazard, as well. As all parents know, babies and toddlers will put just about anything into their mouths!


By Dina DiMaggio, MD, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


The 4 Bs of Bedtime

​​​​The reality of habits is that (a) they can be hard to break and (b) they are not always bad. Take away one habit and you often need to find something to take its place. In the case of the bedtime breast or bottle, be reassured that we don’t intend to leave you empty-handed once you take away your baby’s primary source of bedtime comfort.

These 4 Bs of bedtime will provide you with a soothing substitute that has proven to be one of our most tried-and-true routines for bedtime success — both for babies and older children.

  1. Bathing. Baths are a soothing, hygienic, and decisive way of separating the evening’s eating activities from sleeping. No way around it—only the unbelievably fatigued child will sleep his way through a bath. That means that when feeding time is over, your child will get the message that eating is not in any way, shape, or form a cue to go to sleep.
  2. Brushing. Whether you choose to brush your child’s teeth (or gums) right after the last feeding or just before the actual bedtime itself, we strongly encourage you to get in the habit of having a toothbrush (or washcloth or gauze) be the last thing in your baby’s mouth at night (other than, perhaps, a clean pacifier during the first year as an added method of sudden infant death syndrome prevention).
  3. Books. We’ve found nothing more suitable as a breast/bottle stand-in than books at bedtime. Since you don’t want food or drink to become your child’s bedtime source of comfort, books can serve as the perfect cue that it’s time to cuddle up and go to sleep. Think about what happens when you’re tired and you try to read? Bingo—you fall asleep. When it comes to lifelong healthy habits, we can’t think of a better one.
  4. Bedtime. Short of drugging kids (which we don’t condone, no matter how tired or tempted you might be), it’s mighty hard to force a child to fall asleep. We suggest you stop trying and instead stick to implementing a routine time for your child to get ready for and get into bed. Once you’ve set the stage so that bathing, brushing, and books signal bedtime, you should just let your child fall asleep independently. Sure, this may involve some additional challenges, protests, and even the need to consult additional parenting resources (of which, we can assure you, there are many), but in the end we have always found that if you do a good job of making the bed, your child will learn to lie in it.

    Author: Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. Source. Food Fights, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Finding Time to Be Active

See if this scenario sounds familiar—your child has come home from school with 2 hours of homework, including studying for a math test the following day. He also needs to start working on a science fair project. And don’t forget the clarinet lesson that’s on his calendar as well. There seems to be barely enough time to fit in dinner and a bath.

No wonder some kids feel that they just don’t have time for physical activity. Their schedules are filled to overflowing, and when they’re overbooked, it’s easy for physical activity to fall by the wayside.

As a parent, you need to intervene to make sure your child has time for all the things that are important. Whether he’s overweight, physical activity needs to be a priority.

Sit down with your child and structure his time after school so he can fit in everything that’s most essential. For example, in planning the following day, you might say something like, “You have a block of after-school time tomorrow. Maybe the time immediately after school isn’t the best time for homework, because it will take up the daylight hours you could be outside playing.Why don’t you think about choosing to play outdoors for 30 minutes or an hour after you get home? Then we’ll go to your clarinet lesson, and once you’ve eaten dinner and it’s dark outside, you can do your homework. The evening is the time when you used to watch TV anyway, so it’s a good time to get your homework done. And let’s think about rescheduling your clarinet lessons for the weekends.”

As a parent, you can help your child find the opportunities to be active. If you’re creative, the time will almost always be there.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids

​​While meals make up the majority of a child’s nutritional intake, most children eat at least one snack per day. While many of the most commonly offered kids’ snacks tend to be of lower nutritional value than meals, snacks still can support—or even enhance—your child’s overall healthy eating plan. Here’s how:

  • Use snack times as a way to increase fruits and vegetable intake. Most kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese) lean proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or whole-grain cereals and bread (such as banana sandwich on whole grain bread).
  • Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of raw vegetables and fruit, yogurt dip, hummus, and cheese sticks.
  • Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods.
  • Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors. Arrange your children’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. Talk about the farms where food comes from and the farmers who help grow it.

Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Choosing a Sports Program

Childhood sports programs have grown significantly in recent years. Millions of boys and girls are now involved in Little League baseball, youth soccer, community basketball leagues, competitive swimming teams, and similar types of activities. Happily, sports programs are becoming increasingly avail­able for girls, whose need for such activities and whose ability to participate is equal to that of boys. If your own child joins one or more of these programs, he will have a won­derful opportunity for fun and fitness. At the same time, however, a youngster poorly matched to a sports team—or who must deal with unrealistic expecta­tions from a parent, a coach, or even himself—can have a very negative sports experience, filled with stress and frustration.

Before your child enters a youth sports program, evaluate his objectives as well as your own. Although both child and parent may fantasize about using this as a stepping-stone toward becoming a professional athlete or an Olympic champion, few participants have the talent and dedication to reach those heights. Even more modest goals are far from guaranteed: Only one in four out­standing elementary school athletes becomes a sports standout in high school. Only one in more than 6,600 high school football players will ever rise to the professional football ranks.

Nevertheless, there are other, more important reasons for your child to par­ticipate in organized sports. Sports can contribute to physical fitness and de­velop basic motor skills. Also, participation in the sports activity that best suits your child’s capabilities can develop leadership skills, boost self-confi­dence, teach the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, and help him deal with both success and failure. In addition, by participating in sports, chil­dren often find exercise enjoyable and are more likely to establish lifelong habits of healthful exercise. However, not all sports meet the requirements for promoting overall fitness. Also, there are many ways for children to be fit and become active without participating in a team sport.

Talk with your child about his interest in youth sports, and what his reasons may be for wanting (or in some cases, not wanting) to participate. His goals may be different from yours. Most children—particularly the younger ones—might say that they simply want to have fun. Others may add that they want to be active and hope to spend time and share experiences with friends. You may have all of these goals, too, along with the desire that your youngster de­velop an appreciation for sports and fitness.

If either you or your child places winning at or near the top of your list of goals—and if you put pressure on your child to win a tournament or kick a goal—your priorities are out of line. Winning certainly adds to the fun and ex­citement of sports, but it should not be a primary goal.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Signs of Bullying: Important Questions for Parents to Ask

When pediatrician Adiaha Franklin, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, visits with patients, she asks them three questions about bullying:

  1. Do you ever see kids picking on other kids?
  2. Do kids ever pick on you?
  3. Do you ever pick on kids? (And tell the truth; you’re not in trouble.)

Parents can ask their kids these questions, too.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived difference in power. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The difference can be in size, age, political advantage, economic advantage or social advantage.

Bullying is common, happening every seven seconds to a child in the U.S. It reaches victims in school and online via social media apps and programs like Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Burn Note, Whisper, Yik Yak and YouTube. Some apps are anonymous or enable messages to disappear after a period of time.

Bullying Signs

Kids who bully often learn the behavior at home. The bully’s parents often are absent, abusive, disengaged or overly involved, according to Dr. Franklin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. Children who live in violent communities also are at risk.

Bullying takes many forms:

  • Physical bullying: Victim is touched or hit without consent, or his property is destroyed.
  • Verbal bullying: Victim is called names and insulted.
  • Cyberbullying: Victim is targeted online, sometimes anonymously and other times via public humiliation (e.g., a video of the victim posted on YouTube without consent).
  • Social bullying: Bully tries to destroy a victim’s reputation or relationship with another person or organization.
  • Cyber harassment: When an adult bullies a child online.

All forms can cause victims to have physical illness, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Some victims become bullies themselves. Others have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying Prevention
If a child is being bullied or is bullying another, what should be done?

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports raising awareness among children, parents, teachers and school administrators. Messages should reach victims, bullies and bystanders.

Victims are advised to seek help from an adult and peer support. Remember that the bully’s behavior is not the child’s fault.

Bullies should receive counseling to address the issue. Individuals who bully often suffer from depression, have conduct disorders or need support with social skills.

Parents should support their kids with consistent discipline and teach them not to join in. They also can urge schools to talk regularly with students and teachers about bullying and its consequences. An environment where students feel like they belong is more effective than punishment.


Author: Trisha Korioth , Staff Writer; AAP News (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Some Back to School Tips for You

​​​The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Making the First Day Easier

  • Parents should remember that they need not wait until the first day of class to ask for help. Schools are open to address any concerns a parent or child might have, including the specific needs of a child, over the summer. The best time to get help might be one to two weeks before school opens.
  • Many children become nervous about new situations, including changing to a new school, classroom or teacher. This may occur at any age. If your child seems nervous, it can be helpful to rehearse entry into the new situation. Take them to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school. Remind them that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. If your child seems nervous, ask them what they are worried about and help them problem solve ways to master the new situation.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create positive anticipation about the first day of class. They will see old friends and meet new ones. Talk with them about positive experiences they may have had in the past at school or with other groups of children.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day. Bring the child to school a few days prior to class to play on the playground and get comfortable in the new environment.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day, and get there early on the first day to cut down on unnecessary stress.
  • Make sure to touch base with your child’s new teacher at the beginning or end of the day so the teacher knows how much you want to be supportive of your child’s school experience.
  • Consider starting your child on their school sleep/wake schedule a week or so ahead of time so that time change is not a factor on their first couple of days at school.

Backpack Safety

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10% to 20% of your child’s body weight. Go through the pack with your child weekly, and remove unneeded items to keep it light.
  • Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • Adjust the pack so that the bottom sits at your child’s waist.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers. And review backpack safety with your child.

Eating During the School Day

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if yours does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein
  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced price food at school, including breakfast. The forms for these services can be completed at the school office. Hunger will affect a child’s performance in class.
  • Many school districts have plans which allow you to pay for meals through an online account. Your child will get a card to “swipe” at the register. This is a convenient way to handle school meal accounts.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100% fruit juice. Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect. Also, consider nutrition if you child will be bringing food to eat during school.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Before & After School Child Care

  • During early and middle childhood, children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding schedules, discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose an after-school program for your child, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, trained persons to address health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Develop a Sleep Routine

  • Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can.
  • Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Having a bedtime routine that is consistent will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Components of a calming pre-bedtime routine may involve a bath/shower, reading with them, and tucking them in and saying good-night to them.
  • Have your child turn off electronic devices well before bedtime.
  • Try to have the home as quiet and calm as possible when younger children are trying to fall asleep.
  • Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is 10-12 hours per night and for adolescents (13-18 year of age) is in the range of 8-10 hours per night.

Developing Good Homework & Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; build this time into choices about participation in after school activities.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • For general homework problems that cannot be worked out with the teacher, a tutor may be considered.
  • Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments – such as an assignment notebook.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.