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Thursday, August 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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House Call: Getting kids ready to go back to school

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 22, 2019

Measles is often noticed through a breakout of spots. (Courtesy)
Measles is often noticed through a breakout of spots. (Courtesy)
By Dr. Bob Riggs For The Spokesman-Review

Another school year is upon us, and parents have many things to consider in addition to getting kids’ school supplies assembled. This summer, Washington changed the MMR Vaccine Exemption Law.

The change was made after measles outbreaks across the state and U.S. in the hope that parents will have their children immunized against the sometimes-debilitating and life-threatening diseases. I recommend two things: Read up on the law, and have your child immunized.

The more of us who are immunized, the safer it is out there for babies who are too young to have received their first immunizations, as well as children and adults who can’t be immunized because of things like a compromised immune system.

Making sure kids get enough sleep during the school year can be difficult with homework, school projects and extracurricular activities. Kids ages 6 to 13 years old need 9 to 11 hours of sleep every night, and kids ages 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

Things such as scheduled study and dinnertime can help kids manage their time more efficiently so that they have enough time to sleep each night. Set bedtimes and wakeup times help everyone sleep better.

I also recommend having no phones, tablets, computers, video games or televisions in the bedroom to avoid temptations. Setting a good example by doing the same in your bedroom can help with enforcing such policies. You might end up finding that you are getting more sleep, too.

Helping your kids form good study habits isn’t easy, especially if yours were only so-so back when you were in school. Give your kids an advantage by helping them find out what study habits work best for them, allow them to learn, make learning enjoyable and are time efficient.

I’ve already mentioned scheduling daily study time. Here are other study habits your child can adopt that can help:

Try to study at the same time every day.

Turn off phones during study time.

Set goals for study time (e.g., finish math homework and read one chapter for English).

Review notes and other materials before beginning an assignment.

Work on the most difficult assignment first.

Call another student for help (this is an exception to the phone-off rule when needed).

When choosing extracurricular activities, look at everyone’s schedules and set realistic expectations about what there is and isn’t time for in the day. Consider travel and practice time, as well as enough time for homework.

Most importantly, make time to get enough sleep every night. I’ve said this before, but it seems like every day that I see someone complaining of chronic fatigue, it’s because they’re getting only 5-6 hours of sleep at night. We do not function well without enough sleep.

Extracurricular activities can be a great way to get needed exercise and look great on college applications, but, if your kids aren’t getting enough sleep, everything in their daily lives is just that much more difficult to manage.

If your kids’ extracurriculars are not sports-related, schedule time for exercise such as family bike rides, walks or playing at a playground.

When I was in college, I realized that as a full-time student, taking an elective PE class every term didn’t cost me any more money. I did that for a number of years to keep myself moving. I suggest this to high school and college students as a strategy to stay fit and healthy.

Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.

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