Back to school 2019
Nurse unit manager Grant Searle and Clinician Bridie Carlisle — from Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) — have some common-sense advice for parents with children anxious about the new school year.
“Talk to your child — make them feel comfortable and give them the space to open up to you,” Ms Carlisle said.
“Lead positive conversations about going back to school,” Mr Searle said. “Encourage independence, particularly in younger kids, to help minimise separation anxiety.”
Keeping in contact with your child's school is an excellent way to ensure you have a good understanding of issues — like bullying — which may be affecting your child's studies. Mr Searle said it was important to establish and discuss routines and rules around behaviour, good sleep patterns and other routines at home, including getting up early to prepare for the school day.
“There are other practical matters like uniforms, and ensuring you have all of the right school supplies organised,” he said.
“It's important to show interest in your child's schooling and be supportive of homework, too.”
A huge part of your child's school years revolves around friendships and establishing a positive study/ life balance.
“It's very important to monitor your child's use of social media,” Ms Carlisle said.
“Being aware of online behaviour, ensuring they have time away from the device or computer and being available to provide emotional support is crucial, as is being aware of options for professional assistance.”
“Your GP knows what options are available to support your child,” Mr Searle said. “They will make the decision about whether to send them to triage, who will then send the child to us or refer to other services.”
Those services include headspace, the Student Wellbeing Team or, in an emergency, Lifeline or the Suicide Callback Service.
“We work really closely with all those services,” Ms Carlisle said. “It's easy to get in touch with us through triage.”
Referrals to CAMHS can be made via the Mental HealthTriage Service, which is available 24 hours a day, on 1300 369 005. If you need to speak to someone urgently, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. headspace Shepparton is located at 129 High St, and can be contacted on 5823 8800. Talk to your child's school for more information on the Student Wellbeing Team.
Learn more about the 95210 program from paediatrician Dr Joseph Tam below.
Community Health dietitian Lucy Stephens is highly aware of the amount of confusing information available to parents when it comes to packing school lunches.
“People get told what not to eat, but we don't get enough information on what we should be eating,” she said.
Parents should focus on swapping vegetables or fruit into lunch boxes as snacks, and make the switch to wholemeal bread.
“Make changes, but do it slowly,” Ms Stephens said.
“Try one thing at a time and see how they go — kids might panic otherwise.”
Parents should encourage children to hydrate constantly, especially during summer months.
“Starting the day with plain milk is really great for our teeth and bones,” Ms Stephens said.
“Leave soft drinks and juices out of lunch boxes — those can be replaced with bottled water. The impact of sugary drinks on teeth is huge.”
If children insist on flavoured drinks, try lemon juice or some mint in their water bottle.
Ms Stephens recommends including an ice pack in the lunch box for food safety, and encouraging children to have refrigerated snacks at little lunch to ensure they're cold.
“Don't try to introduce too many new things at once — work with what your child likes,” she said. “You just need to get kids to trial it.”
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Senior consultant paediatrician Dr Joseph Tam said a good lifestyle was essential to success at school, but parents and care-givers could often find it frustrating to establish healthy directions for the family.
“Physicians, dietitians, nurses and fitness experts in the USA have developed the 95210 program,” Dr Tam said. “This simple set of recommendations is designed to help the entire family work together to improve their health outcomes.”
Dr Tam said that the 95 210 program addressed a broad spectrum of healthy lifestyle recommendations for adults and children:
• 9 = The number of hours of sleep we should get daily
• 5 = How many servings of fruit and vegetables we should eat daily
• 2 = The amount of non-school related screen time we should get daily
• 1 = Get at least one hour of exercises a day
• 0 = Eliminate smoking, for adults; and sugary beverages entirely
“Set goals and work together,” Dr Tam said. “You don't need to go through the items in sequence, you can work on one at a time. Have a friendly competition to encourage each other to achieve your objectives, and be sure to reward yourselves.”
Dr Tam said the program aimed to help families succeed in their healthy lifestyle goals through teamwork and nurturing a supportive environment.
“We always make sure we take the opportunity to promote a healthier lifestyle at GV Health,” he said. “The real prize with 95210 is feeling more alive and energetic, feeling good about yourself and helping everyone become healthier and happier.”