If your family includes school-age children, you probably welcome August with mixed emotions. The end of summer vacation in Georgia means the start of routines that provide structure, new activities that keep the kids engaged, and a break from the endless battles over devices and video games. But it also introduces a host of social, academic, athletic, and personal challenges that are part of growing up.

But what if we decided to make this the best school year EVER? What would that look like— and how could we actually make that happen? While you can’t force the teachers to inspire your student, prevent conflicts with friends, or help them make the varsity team, you CAN create an environment that gives your child a great chance to thrive.

And that starts with a foundation of health that gives them the energy and clarity to do their best.

Once your child arrives at school and settles in at their desks, lockers, and lunch tables, they’re exposed to all of the wonderful viruses and bacteria the other students carried with them (we’ve all seen the scary close-up pictures of germs on a table, right?) Most of these are harmless, but who wants to start the school year with a bunch of sick days?

If you choose to solve this problem by sending your child in a protective bubble, you may stop reading. For the rest of you, please read on for a few simple suggestions to help your student dominate this year with a clean bill of health. And if your child does get sick (or injured), you can always set up an appointment so we can help get them back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Here are five tips for healthy Back-to-School.

Wash your hands regularly. Hand washing is not only an overall part of cleanliness, it is also a great example of preventative care. Anytime we come in contact with a communal organism, we should all wash our hands thoroughly. According to the CDC, that means rubbing our hands (vigorously and with soap) for 20 seconds. Since most kids won’t time themselves, a handy shortcut is to have your child sing or hum a song as they wash their hands. Choose from classics like ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Happy Birthday’ (sing this one tune twice)–or be creative and make up a catchy tune. You can even assign a song for them to wash throughout the day. For older kids that want to avoid being labeled “that kid who sings nursery rhymes”, have them sing or hum the first verse of their favorite song, then sing the chorus as they rinse— to themselves if they prefer.

Get your immunizations. Immunizations play an integral role in preventative care, so much that some schools will not permit students to attend unless there is documentation verifying that vaccinations are up-to-date. According to the CDC, every state has certain immunizations requirements, so be sure to speak with your Primary or Pediatric care physician to see if new vaccinations have been added or simply schedule an appointment to have them done.

Get on a sleep schedule. Kids (and adults) operate better on a routine, especially throughout the school year. During the summer, we often shift into a lax state and become carefree regarding sleep hours as well as bedtime schedules. Starting the school year off sleep-deprived can leave your child’s immune system susceptible to infections or viruses. As a way to smoothly transition into the school year, reinstate all routines a week prior to starting school. Your student will adjust accordingly and won’t go through the day feeling sluggish or overly exhausted. And for those tech-savvy parents, there are plenty of apps to help establish a healthy routine. Try Sleep Genius or Digipill.

Focus on food. Nutrition fuels students throughout their day, so eating right—and on schedule–should be a priority. Though scheduled meals can prove to be a bit challenging at first, planning your weekly meals on Saturday, then executing them on Sunday will help both you and your student(s) and encourage healthy eating habits. As childhood obesity continues to present a greater health risk, providing your child with healthier options will not only combat energy deficiency but will also help manage their weight. The USDA also encourages that children eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Being the first meal of the day, breakfast improves concentration as well as performance in the classroom. Lastly, consuming a diet filled with colorful vegetables and fruits in addition to the nine to ten hours of adequate rest will help combat infections.

Get a checkup. Your family doctor should be your partner in managing the health of your family. A regular checkup is a great way to identify any issues early, answer questions you might have, and develop a custom wellness plan based on your child’s unique makeup.

And finally, remember to be patient. Trying to do everything at once can set you up for failure. Introduce one or two small changes at a time, and over time you’ll be surprised how much you’ve accomplished.

Here’s to the 2017-2018 school year. Soon to be known as the best year ever 🙂

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