Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to school means colds, pain and stress... or does it?

Most parents know that when it's back-to-school time, they start seeing more colds and viruses coming home from school. Other parents see their children developing back pain (heavy backpacks may be the culprit), headaches, stress, and other ailments that they didn't see throughout the summer holidays. Much of this is preventable, with a bit of time and know how.

1- Colds and viruses: Wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands some more. It's not easy to ensure your children wash their hands at school, but you can be sure they do so as they walk in the door. Make it part of the routine: come home, dump the school bag and wash your hands.

Another tip that I used at home when my children were small is we all had our own toothpaste. It was amazing how much that one new rule decreased the number of illnesses that were shared. Most of us don't share toothbrushes, right? But if one child has a cold, uses that brush on the family toothpaste, the virus is easily spread. So, every child gets their own toothpaste. This may also solve the problem that some families have: not all children agreeing on the type or flavor of toothpaste.

2- Headaches: if your child is coming home with headaches, there are a few things you can do to see if you can track down the culprit:

  • Is your child eating breakfast and lunch?
  • Is your child getting enough to drink and not getting dehydrated?
  • Is the bus ride home long and noisy?
  • Are your child's eyes ok or might he or she need glasses?

Of course, these are only a few reasons why children may get headaches, but they are common reasons. If  you can find the cause, you're one step closer to finding the solution.

3- Back pain: if your child has a heavy backpack and doesn't wear it properly, this could lead to back pain. If you're child isn't the only one with a heavy load to carry, it may be worth speaking to the school about strategies to literally lighten the loads.

4- Stress: Stress is a tough one to pin down. Some kids rarely experience it, others are stressed all the time. The important thing is to be sure that you acknowledge that your child may be stressed. It used to be that parents and teachers denied that this was even a possibility, but stress is real, no matter how old you are. If you think your child may be stressed, it may take quite a while to figure it out - sometimes they aren't entirely sure of it themselves.

To lower stress levels in the family overall, here are some tips:

  • Develop a routine for before and after school. While it may be tough to begin one, routines do help children feel secure if they are feeling out of sorts.
  • Ensure the children get enough sleep. 
  • Ensure good eating habits. Proper meals, sitting down and taking the time to eat them is not only a healthy thing to do, it's a good time to interact with one another.
  • Allow for non-scheduled activities. Allow your kids to be kids and enjoy having nothing to do. While it may seem counter-productive in this "must hurry, must be busy" society, there's a lot to be said about day dreaming and just doing nothing once in a while.

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