By Jorge Rubal, CEO & Medical Director,
Laguna Beach Community Clinic
Summer came and went, yet again, in a blink of an eye. Hopefully, your family was able to create unique memories in this fastest of seasons. As our children embark on another academic year, the relaxation of summer will be replaced by the frenzy of preparing them for school. Whether it’s annual or sports physicals, vaccinations, or resumption of a school night routine, it all adds a little stress into our lives.
If you haven’t already had your annual school physical examination, here are some topics that should be discussed with your medical provider to get you and the kids ready, and decrease the stress around the house.
Routines are a critical component in a child’s day, and after the freedom of summer, it may feel overwhelming to restart weekday schedules. Consider starting your child on their school sleep/wake schedule a week or so ahead of time so that time change is not a factor on their first couple of days at school.
Healthy food choices
Healthy snacks and lunches for children are important in providing good nutrition, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits. In addition, childhood is a critical time for growth and development, and snacks provide important nutrients that your child needs between meals. During the week, this means children should have a nutritious midmorning and mid-afternoon snack at school to meet the nutrient demands of their growing bodies and brains.
Some nutritious and delicious snack ideas include sliced apples with almond butter or peanut butter, cinnamon and sliced dates; Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a sprinkle of your child’s favorite nuts; granola bars and parfait cups with layers of yogurt, granola, berries and nuts.
The best way to protect your children from vaccine-preventable diseases is to vaccinate them. Not only will vaccinating protect your children, but also helps protect the health of classmates, friends, relatives, and others in the community. This sounds simple enough, but there are many questions that arise with vaccines, among them: Which vaccines does your child need for school? What if I do not have their records? What if my child missed some their previous vaccines? The good news to all of the questions is that your doctor should be able to sit down and answer these questions for you.
However, most school dispense a notification which vaccinations are required prior to starting school. Therefore, call the school and ask, if you have not received such a notification. If you don’t have their records, your physician can check with California Immunization Registry (CAIR) to find any documented vaccinations and ensure that they are receiving the appropriate vaccinations. If your child has missed previous vaccinations, the good news is that it’s never too late to vaccinate them. A catch-up immunization schedule can be used to get them back on track.
Parents, do not take the following personally, but we may ask you to leave the room for part of the visit. It is important for our teen patients to trust us and know that they can speak to us honestly when discussing issues such as mental health, sex, smoking, or even substance use.
The teenage years can be tough, and it’s perfectly normal to feel sad or irritable every now and then. But if these feelings don’t go away or become so intense that that child can’t handle them, they may be suffering from depression.
If your teenager seems down or troubled and you may suspect depression, look for common warning signs of teen depression:
Your child doesn’t want to do they normally used to love to do
Your child suddenly changes friends or start isolating themselves
Your child begins to have issues with school attendance or after school activities
Your child begins to put themselves down when describing themselves
It’s normal for teens to have many questions and lots of thoughts and feelings about sex and sexuality, and parents and their medical provider have an important role to play. Here are some tips for talking with your teen about sex:
Sexually transmitted diseases are very common, and people ages 15-24 have the highest risk of getting one. And even though teens make up only a small part of the sexually active population, they still have the greatest probability of contracting one.
Therefore, a discussion about safer sexual practices, getting tested prior to starting a relationship, and contraception management with you their parent or a trusted medical provider might be considered.
Smoking and Drug Use
Experimentation with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience.
If you are concerned and suspect your child maybe smoking, drinking, or using drugs look for signs similar to those as discussed with depression.
Parents can help prevent their children from using drugs by talking to them about drugs, open communication, role modeling, responsible behavior, and recognizing if problems are developing.
Getting the right balance
In a world that is so fast paced and demands so much from our children, a healthy childhood and adolescence calls for balancing home life, school, social activities, sports, and extracurricular pursuits. This is not easy, especially during a time when the child is passing through the years of growth, learning, exploration, and emotional and physical development. This is all the more reason to set aside one day during each of those years for your child to see their physician.