The school year is well underway for Arizona children and teens – and it’s a perfect time to check in on their physical and mental health to make sure they’re growing up healthy, happy and strong. As a pediatrician and mom, here are a few things to keep in mind this time of year:
Schedule a well-child visit. It’s important for kids to receive a medical check-up each year. At this appointment, your child’s pediatrician will review their medical history and complete a physical exam. It’s an ideal time to raise any concerns or questions you have as a parent, including any feelings of anxiety, depression or stress your child may be experiencing.
Make sure vaccines are current. Arizona public and private schools require children to receive certain vaccines. Your pediatrician can make sure your kids are up to date and administer any needed vaccinations.
Prepare athletes for play. Sports physicals can be completed by your pediatrician and are often wrapped into the back-to-school exam. It’s important for your pediatrician to complete this – they know your child’s health history, and your family history as well. These are important factors in catching anything that may warrant a closer look.
Wear backpacks properly. Backpacks can be heavy, and if they’re not worn correctly, they may cause back, neck or shoulder pain. Choose a backpack that’s the right size for your child and has two wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap. Your child should always use both shoulder straps, adjusted tightly enough to keep the load close to the back.
Travel safely. Bicycles, including e-bikes, are a popular way for kids to get to and from school and activities. Make sure your child wears a properly fitted helmet and follows the rules of the road, like coming to a full stop at stop signs and using proper hand signals.
Take a hard look at schedules. It can be challenging for kids to juggle school, homework, sports and other extracurriculars. Safeguard your child’s physical and mental well-being by ensuring their schedule includes plenty of downtime for rest, recovery and time with friends and family.
Evaluate new complaints. When kids complain of aches and pains, most parents treat the symptoms, like administering acetaminophen or implementing an earlier bedtime. Some aches are due to a mental health issue that’s leading to physical symptoms – and Tylenol doesn’t help. A child with new stomach problems might be stressed about a peer relationship, while a teen experiencing headaches or constant fatigue might be depressed or anxious. At this time of year, pediatricians treat a lot of kids and teens with physical problems that are rooted in mental health issues.
Take action. If you suspect your child’s aches and pains indicate a mental health concern, talk to your pediatrician about strategies to help children cope with stressors, recommendations for modifying food or sleep habits, and whether you should adjust your family’s routine or scale back on your child’s activities. You and your doctor may decide that meeting with a psychologist or counselor is the best next step.
If you are looking for a new pediatrician, Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics provides comprehensive primary, preventive and urgent care services at locations across the Valley and in Cottonwood. Learn more at phoenixchildrenspediatrics.org