With back-to-school season just around the corner, children are watching the final days of summer vacation slip away as the first day of school looms ahead. This naturally calls for a mix of excitement, nervousness and – in most cases – anxiety. Students of all ages often struggle with anxiety when preparing for the school year ahead as fears of the unknown flood their mind.
Who will be their teacher? Will they have friends in their classes? Will they get picked on?
As a parent, friend or loved one, there are proactive steps you can take to combat back-to-school anxiety and give children the confidence they need to excel in school. Rene Czerwinski, Licensed Mental Health Counselor from Pacific Medical Centers, provides insight on how to identify signs of anxiety in children and tools to equip them for success throughout the school year.
Czerwinski says the typical reasons for anxiety vary by age, but can stem from a variety of concerns such as the quantity of homework, if the teacher will be strict or mean, if the student will fit in or make friends, and the overwhelming stress of school sports tryouts. Thankfully, parents can help alleviate these concerns prior to the school year through consistent emotional and mental support.
“Patience is first,” explains Czerwinski. “This includes helping your child set up a bedtime routine at least two weeks before school starts and having consistent on-on-one conversations about your child’s day. It’s important to provide your undivided attention during this time and eliminate television, cell phones or any other distractions. Validate your child’s concerns and let them know they have your support and can come to you with any issues.”
Once school starts and children fall into a new routine, monitor your child’s anxiety levels and behavior to determine if it improves or declines. Bullying at school is a common source of anxiety for children, and being able to identify signs of bullying during the initial stages is key to protecting your child from long-term effects.
Czerwinski shares signs parents should watch out for, such as unexplained injuries, lost or damaged clothing, missing books or electronics, frequent headaches, stomach aches or “fake” illnesses to stay home from school. Victims of bullying experience severe anxiety and will also struggle with nightmares, depression, weight loss or weight gain, and inconsistent mood swings.
If you think your child is a victim of bullying, you can provide support by educating them on the need to set boundaries, what disrespectful and dangerous behavior looks like, and how to respond appropriately. Additionally, these situations present an opportunity to counsel children on their reactions to these situations. For example, teaching them how to walk away from a threatening situation and advising them not to retaliate with foul language or name calling. If your child witnesses bullying at school, remind them to speak up for others and report these incidences to an adult or faculty member immediately.
If bullying becomes a recurring issue for your child and you start to notice the impact on their personal wellbeing, it’s crucial for parents to get involved and address the issue directly with the school.
“One of the most important points when working directly with the school administration is to remain respectful while expressing your concern,” Czerwinski says. “The administration is on your side and will appreciate your honest feedback. Plan to come to the meeting with specific examples and determine a plan of action together before leaving to ensure there is a strategy in place for resolving the issue.”
While identifying and addressing bullying is imperative to your child’s wellbeing, teaching and empowering your child to stick up for others and not bully is equally as important. Educate your child on how to set boundaries and lead by example, while encouraging an attitude of respect and acceptance for others and their differences.
By following these tips from Czerwinski, we can inspire a younger generation to develop healthier and safer communities both inside and outside of the classroom.
If you walk into a room and forget why you’re there, you’re not alone. Likewise, if you find yourself searching for a word that’s on the tip of your tongue, most likely there’s nothing wrong with your brain function. “Those are fairly normal distraction errors,” says Dr. Lisa Olsson, a neuropsychologist with Pacific Medical Centers who focuses on dementia, traumatic brain injury multiple sclerosis and developmental disabilities. “We’re thinking about another topic and we’ve derailed ourselves. Usually that’s not a significant problem.”
However, some people do begin to exhibit problems with cognitive function as early as their late 30’s and early 40’s. The good news? For anyone seeking to avoid dementia, research has demonstrated a number of effective means of keeping mentally sharp, says Olsson.
At the top of the list: exercise. “Regular aerobic exercise creates better blood flow to the brain,” she says. “We see less atrophy changes in the brain in patients that walk or swim.” Exercise can stimulate new brain cell growth and survival as well as reducing risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, all of which are risk factors for dementia.
Diet also plays an important role. Several studies suggest that the so-called ‘Mediterranean diet’, consisting of olive oil, avocados, nuts, whole grains, leafy colorful vegetables, and alcohol in moderation, is associated with slower cognitive decline and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. “Research is suggesting that if you have a healthy diet, that can be neuro-protective,” says Olsson. “It keeps people from showing early signs of cognitive impairment.”
Challenging yourself to learn something new is important for brain health, she advises. “It could be reading, taking a cooking class or gaining a new skill. New learning tends to be better than old learning.” If you’re already a crossword puzzle fan, mix it up with jigsaw puzzles and sudoku, she recommends. “Change up how you think. If you’re a chef and you always cook Italian, change it up and learn Chinese cooking. If you usually read mysteries, try a non-fiction or sci-fi novel. It builds new neurological connections and makes the brain work harder.”
Social interactions are not only helpful for morale and emotional well-being, they help to maintain language skills. “We’re less likely to lose receptive and expressive language skills if we’re interacting with others,” says Olsson. “People who continue to be involved in clubs or volunteering have to remember the people around them, pull up names and understand what they’re being asked.” Finding activities that combine social interaction with physical and mental activity can optimize the benefits of connecting with others.
Finally, adequate hydration may play a role in preventing the onset of dementia. “New information suggests that if people are better hydrated, there’s less shrinkage of the brain,” says Olsson. “Getting plenty of water is a good idea.”
To help your organization stay on track with health this summer, the Living Well Alliance is introducing two new classes! Our on-site classes are convenient and led by health professionals.
NEW CLASS: An in-depth look at sugar. In this class, we help your employees wade through all the hype to learn the truth about this molecule and what it does to their health. Participants will learn why humans evolved to crave sugar, the consequences of eating too much and how to read food labels to learn your sugar limit. Employees will leave with suggestions on how to reduce sugar intake and cravings. Is a sugar detox in your future?
NEW CLASS: Making successful behavioral changes. This class is an excellent companion to the nutrition counseling program the Living Well Alliance started in June. Many of us know what we need to change, but turning that knowledge into action is tricky. Class participants will discuss theories that evaluate approaches to change, learn effective methods for successfully changing lifelong habits and finally evaluate their own readiness to change while creating an individualized plan.
Still need a push in the right direction? Living Well Alliance can help! Sign up for individual nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian today. Read our flyer.
The Living Well Alliance is run by Pacific Medical Centers. Call us today at 1.206.621.4419 for more information or email LivingWellAlliance@pacmed.org.
Older kids can help you put fruit on skewers. Adults and kids alike will love the tart-sweet balsamic glaze. You’ll need eight or more 9-12-inch skewers.
Now that our sunny days are finally here, it’s important to consider consuming antioxidant-rich foods that have a protective effect for skin. Four nutrients that promote healthy, radiant skin are vitamins A, E and C and omega-3 fats. Here is some useful background, plus tips on how to incorporate foods rich in these nutrients into your daily diet. (Be sure to consult your doctor for advice regarding appropriate doses of these nutrients.)
Vitamin A: This vitamin has an essential role in skin health by decreasing cell damage and helping the healing process of bodily wounds. Low levels of vitamin A can lead to a dry, flaky complexion. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) to consume is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. Don’t hesitate to increase your intake of sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, apricots, cantaloupe and other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin E: This antioxidant nutrient also helps protect against skin damage. Research has shown vitamin E plays an important role in photoprotection, preventing ultraviolet (UV)-induced free-radical damage to skin, as well as having related anti-inflammatory roles in the skin. The RDA for men and women is 15 mg. Try grabbing some sunflower seeds and almonds for your afternoon snack.
Vitamin C: In addition to promoting a strong immune system, this water-soluble vitamin is vital for skin health. Vitamin C has an important role in the synthesis of collagen, a major protein of body tissues that include the skin. Dietary and topical ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) have beneficial effects on skin cells, and some studies have shown that vitamin C may also help prevent and treat UV-induced photodamage. The RDA for men is 90 mg and 75 mg for women. Include broccoli, red peppers and green peppers in your favorite dishes, or enjoy oranges, strawberries or kiwi for dessert.
Omega-3 fatty acids: These healthy fats are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them; you have to get them through food. Research has shown that omega-3 anti-inflammatory properties include a protective effect against sunburn and helping prevent premature aging. One of the symptoms of omega-3 deficiency includes dry skin. An adequate intake (AI) for men and women is about 1 g daily. Try sardines, tuna or salmon for a quick and delicious dinner tonight.
Learn more about our dietitian services at PacMed, or call 206.505.1300 for an appointment.
Parents, what fun activities are your kids doing this summer? Staying physically fit is as important as completing their summer reading list! Be sure to mix fun with safety for a successful summer.
Safety first! Avoid injury and promote safety:
- Stay hydrated. Always take water with you for outside activities.
- Be a smart hiker. Take a rain jacket and warm layers, plus water and snacks. Tell someone exactly where you will hike and when you should be back.
- Take care in the sun. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.
- Stretch first. Do some simple stretches to loosen up before walking or hiking.
- Protect the head. Ensure kids wear helmets when riding a bike, skateboard, scooter or other toy. Ask an expert to help you properly fit your child’s helmet so that it’s snug, level and comfortable.
- Take care in the heat. Be cautious with vigorous outside activities during the midday heat.
- Water fun? Keep eyes on the kids. When around water, give children your full attention—kids aren’t safe just because they know how to swim. Even a bucket, fountain or shallow wading pool is a drowning hazard. Drain containers when play is done.
- Check pool for safety measures. Choose pools with high fences that lock, lifeguards on duty and safety/rescue equipment nearby.
- Wear life jackets. On boats or docks, make sure all children wear a well-fitted life jacket that’s Coast Guard approved.
Now—get those kids moving! Here are some ideas:
- Run through a sprinkler.
- Go to a beach and skip rocks, look for small critters in the sand and rocks, or count seagulls.
- Take a walk along a river. Keep an eye out for fish, insects or other creatures using the water.
- Fly a kite.
- Shoot hoops at the local school playground.
- Play “follow the leader” at a nearby park or through the neighborhood.
- Learn to hula hoop.
- Get together with friends and have relay races, keep a beach ball up in the air, do somersaults, roll down a small hill, play tug-o-war, etc.
Active, physical exercise helps children increase self-confidence, boost coordination and build strong muscles and bones—along with a healthy appetite!
Have questions about child safety and health? Our pediatricians can help.
Doesn’t summer break always go by faster than you think? Like most parents, you’re probably already thinking about all the steps to getting your children school-ready. Don’t forget about well-child checkups, sports physicals andimmunizations.
Beat the Rush!
Your child may be due for a well-child check-up if he or she has not been seen in the past 12 months. Well-child visits to your primary care provider (PCP) are an essential part of keeping your child healthy.These exams include immunization updates and various health and development screenings. You can also schedule a sports physical with us!
Avoid the last-minute rush and make an appointment soon. When you schedule the appointment, let your doctor’s office know if you need immunization and other records for school purposes. If you have a school form to submit, fill out as much of it in advance. This will leave more time for you, your child and your child’s primary care physician to focus on health.
Immunize the Whole Family
Adults also need immunizations to stay healthy and keep children healthy. By being vaccinated, adults help protect people around them, especially infants and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems.
At PacMed, our pediatric providers will become your partner in your child’s health. Call us at 1.888.4.PACMED (1.888.472.2633) to schedule your child’s appointment or visit us here. Please verify covered services with your insurance company prior to making an appointment.
Come to a PacMed Back-to-School Event!
Come meet our providers! We love doing these energetic, family-focused events, with snacks and games and fun activities. You also can pick up a well-child immunization card.
Federal Way clinic—Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway,* Aug. 9, 5-8pm
Canyon Park clinic—Back-to-School Event, Aug. 26, 10am-1pm
*While supplies last. 200 backpacks will be given away to first arrivers.