Dr. Phelan By General Practitioner Published:

Summer is nearly over and children are heading back to school. Here are my top 10 tips to make sure it’s a healthy and productive first term for both parents and youngsters.

1. Bedtime
Keep a strict bedtime regime. If they have been staying up late, get them to go to bed a little earlier each day until they are back on their school bedtime, with the same in reverse in the morning if they have been having a lie in. School-age children should be getting between nine to eleven hours sleep.

2. Vaccinations
Double check your children’s immunisations are up to date as germs can spread quickly in schools and there have been reports of recent measles outbreaks in parts of the country.

3. Food for thought
Breakfast is a key meal, so look at a healthy start to the day and try to eat as a family. Choose slow energy-releasing foods such as porridge or boiled eggs rather than sugary cereal. Also try to plan meals, from snacks to pack lunches, so that youngsters get their recommended five-a-day.

4. Vitamins
The government has released new guidance that we should all consider vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter. Vitamin D is vital for healthy, growing bones in children.

5. The stress factor
Try to avoid last minute stress. Involve your children in being organised, by giving them age-appropriate tasks like organising school bags, or laying out clothes for the morning and even making their packed lunches.

6. Uncharacteristic behaviour 
If children appear worried or more nervous than normal about school, talk it through with them and see if there are any underlying problems, such as bullying. You can then take action. Most schools have specific groups and action plans in place to tackle bullying.

7. Feet first
It’s expensive I know, but children’s feet need room to grow, so make sure footwear from school-shoes to plimsolls are the right size, as they are likely to have outgrown last years’.

8. Exercising caution
Do you have to take the car to drop them off? Encouraging children to be active is vital for their wellbeing. Schemes such as ‘walking buses’ are worth looking into as a safe way for them to walk to and from school without you.

9. Stay ahead of the game
Make sure you have stocked up your medicine cupboard so you have everything to hand, from anti-lice lotions to plasters and pain relief to cough medicine, so you can nip anything in the bud and avoid school absences.

10. Time out
Kids need to chill and unwind, so try to build that into their schedules, as stressed and anxious youngsters are less able to perform to the best of their ability.