Children's Health

Four B’s of back to school

As children across the country prepare to head back to school, there’s no time like the present to start forming healthy habits for a successful year.

Remembering the four B’s of back-to-school can help your kids start the school year off on the right foot.

Transitions can be tough on kids, so it’s important to start the year off right with a bedtime routine.  After a fun and relaxing summer, children may need help getting back into a school sleep schedule.

“Help them to physically fall asleep by waking them up a little bit earlier,” said Dr. Sally Ibrahim, a sleep expert at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “Then they will be able to fall asleep a little bit better, and yes, we should be encouraging that bedtime routine … and getting ready for bedtime.”

Young brains need fuel to focus in the classroom, so it’s a good idea to adjust your child’s breakfast time. Be sure take into consideration how long your child will have to go between breakfast and lunch when planning that first meal of the day.

“If the child has an earlier lunch, they may not need as large as a breakfast, but they still need something,” said Jennifer Willoughby, a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “If your child has a later lunch, it’s even more important to focus on the fiber and the protein, because that’s what is going to stick with them.”

Backpacks, book bags, knapsacks – whatever you call them, odds are, your child will be carrying one to school this fall. And while they are very useful in lugging those notebooks and textbooks back and forth – especially for younger kids who don’t have lockers – packing them too full can be dangerous. Experts say your child’s backpack should never be more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her weight. That means a 75-pound third grader should only be carrying 11 pounds of books. And that weight should be distributed evenly, so look for a backpack with two equally wide straps.

“You don’t want the one strap that goes across because then it can hurt your child’s back,” said Dr. Richard So, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “When you’re talking about wide straps versus the rope type straps, the rope type straps can cut into your child’s shoulders if [his or her] backpack is too heavy.”

Tummy aches and first-day jitters are common at the start of the school year, and are often caused by constipation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors suggest encouraging your child to avoid “holding it” and let him know it’s okay to raise his hand and ask to use the bathroom. Anxiety and stressors like new teachers, homework assignments and changing friendships can also bring on stomach discomfort, so talk to your children about their experience and see a doctor if pain persists.