PHILADELPHIA – Going back to school can be both exciting and stressful for children. There is the excitement of a new year and the new opportunities presented by advancing a grade level. But this annual occasion also marks the return of homework, exams, social pressure to compete with their classmates, and other challenges. This can lead to stress, which can take a physical and mental toll on children.
“You may notice that your child is avoiding responsibilities, having trouble sleeping, acting angry, or just feeling sad or depressed. While you shouldn’t let these symptoms linger, you also don’t need to take drastic steps to relieve them,” says Dr. Andrea Gelzer, senior vice president of medical affairs for AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other health care solutions for those most in need. “Some simple activities can help your children cope with the stress that often comes with the return of classes, homework, and other school-related pressures.”
It can also be a stressful time for parents, particularly those with lesser financial means or parents of children with disabilities. In addition to helping their children cope with their stress, they must find money to pay for school supplies, school lunches, and after school care.
Income, education, and food access are some of the social determinants of health, or factors in people’s lives that can influence their health. As a national managed care company committed to addressing social determinants of health, AmeriHealth Caritas’ Medicaid health plans hold or participate in back to school events in a number of states. These programs include backpack giveaways, health screenings, and/or other activities that can help children start the school year on a healthy and happy note. In other states, similar events are often organized by churches, community health centers, and other local organizations during August.
AmeriHealth Caritas offers the following additional tips for parents to help their children start the school year on a happy note:
- Rest: Make sure your children gets enough of it
Children need plenty of sleep under normal circumstances (nine hours per night is recommended), but especially during stressful times. To help their children sleep soundly, parents should reduce their children’s television time and have them avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day. Quieter activities, such as reading, will help them wind down.
- Emphasize your children’s strengths
You should encourage your children to use their strengths in a positive way. Spending time with friends also helps lessen stress.
- Look for healthy outlets for stress
Physical activity is not only an important component of physical health. It also can help you cope with mental stress. You can also encourage your children to listen to music or find hobbies that make them happy.
- Axe your bad mood by getting outside
The weather is often still summer-like when the school year begins. Being outside can boost your childrens’ mood. Taking a few extra minutes to spend time outdoors each day can make a big difference in their state of mind.
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