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Back to School 2009 Health Tips from Riley Hospital for Children

Don’t let school erode your child’s self confidence. “Parents can help their children build self-confidence by helping them focus on the things they do well and explaining that people are better at some things and not as good at others. Part of our job as parents is to help teach our children how to feel good about themselves when they do well and to feel proud of their efforts and accomplishments. Another part of that job is to help teach our children what to do when they become frustrated and struggle with things. This way, kids know that they are good and capable people who can handle most things on their own, but know when to ask for help should they need it,” says Riley Hospital for Children physician Michele Sayana, M.D., assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Brown bagging breakfast for lunch can keep your child on a healthy eating track, according to Heather Cupp, R.D., a registered dietician with Riley Hospital for Children’s POWER program. “Sandwich two tablespoons of apple butter and a medium sliced banana between two whole wheat waffles and you have a healthy but fun lunch that can be kept in a locker or cubbie without harm,” she says. Send along carrot sticks and money for a container of low fat milk and your son or daughter is all set. Riley Hospital for Children’s POWER Program, works to improve the health of children ages 2 to 18 and decrease the risk of obesity.

Carrying the right backpack to school is important – not for fashion but for health. “Aching back and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles and stooped posture are all symptoms related to carrying a backpack that is too heavy or worn improperly,” said Cara Fast, MSW, manager of the Riley Safety Store and child injury prevention programs for Riley Community Education and Child Advocacy.

Is your child’s return to school stressful for the family? For many families, back-to-school time is both a relief and a hassle as parents and their children adapt to a new school year and new schedules. Riley Hospital for Children child psychologist Michele Thorne, PhD., Indiana University School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry, recommends that parents make a timetable for shower/bathroom times and give each family member a slot. Who goes first can rotate daily or weekly depending on each person’s schedule and desires. “Parents can sit down with their kids on Saturday or Sunday to talk about the week ahead, going through day by day to make sure everything is accounted for, from lunch box needs to supplies for school projects to transportation and even parental business trips,” says Dr. Thorne. She strongly recommends using and frequently checking a big calendar displayed prominently to track everyone’s activities as well as the menu – both lunch box and home to decrease stress among children and adults alike.