Late summer is a particularly busy time for many providers with parents squeezing in immunization updates, sports physicals and routine checkups for their children before another school year gets too far underway.
Dr. James Conley
James Edwin Conley, MD, a primary care physician with Saint Thomas Medical Partners, noted it's also a great time for physicians and other providers to help young patients and their parents get off to a healthy, happy start.
The internist said, "Starting a new school year can be overwhelming for some." Conley added a number of factors can cause additional tension at the beginning of the year including unfamiliar teachers, classmates and buildings. Other stressors, he said, include the fear of failure - either socially or academically - and worries about making friends and being accepted.
"The key is to stay positive and take it one day at a time," advised Conley. "Encourage your child to believe in themselves and instill confidence." He also said students should be encouraged to ask for help when they don't understand a subject or if they feel bullied or uncomfortable in a situation.
Parents should also be alert to red flags that their child might be struggling. "Warning signs may include worsening performance in school, change in behavior or mood, lack of interest in doing things that were once enjoyable, poor appetite, concentration, or sleeping patterns, irritability, disinterest in socializing with peers or participating in activities, or increase in sick days from school," said Conley.
He added that he reminds parents to talk to their children often, asking about school experiences and discussing any pressures or concerns that are expressed. "Encourage your child to be open and try not to be judgmental. Provide reassurance and guidance in areas of struggle. It is never wrong to find help to address issues as soon as possible," he noted.
For younger children starting school, Conley said reassurance that they are loved and supported is key. "Let them know that they can lean on you in time of need," he said. "Not every day will be great ... troubling and difficult situations will arise ... but everything will get better."
Conley said the takeaway message for kids of all ages embarking on a new school year is that it's a team effort with a support system that includes parents, teachers, physicians and children working together to optimize physical and emotional health.
Other Back-to-School Tips from Ascension Saint Thomas
Off to a strong emotional start:
Too many middle and high school students are afraid to open up about their turbulent emotions. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that at least 80 percent of teens with anxiety and 60 percent of teens with depression are not getting help. Here are a few best practices for nurturing emotionally strong teens:
Off to a strong nutritional start:
As you fill your shopping cart with clothes and classroom supplies for your growing child, don't forget to plan ahead for school lunches. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found a strong correlation between the quality of a student's lunch and their academic success.