By NAOMI GROBSTEIN
For Montclair Local
Editor’s note: This series will be written by practitioners in Summit Medical Group (SMG) on health-related topics. This one is by Naomi Grobstein, MD, a family medicine physician specializing in women’s health and gynecology at Montclair Family Medicine at SMG. She enjoys vegan and vegetarian cooking, walking, and kayaking.
As August comes to a close, back-to-school prep is in full swing. As a mother of three, grandmother of five and physician to thousands of families, I have the unique perspective of seeing this exciting and hectic time of year through the lens of both a parent and a doctor.
I remember the days when I was busy gathering school supplies and shopping for new sneakers with my kids. There is so much to do before September that we often forget health and wellness is an equally important part of starting the school year off right.
We all let our kids live a little on summer vacation. But come September it is time for unhealthy habits like eating junk food, staying up late and enjoying extra screen time to come to an end. Research shows that healthy children who exercise, have nutritious meals and are emotionally balanced have higher test scores and fewer behavioral problems.
Before the school year starts, schedule a checkup with your family physician or pediatrician. Make sure your child is up-to-date on their shots. I still see a number of patients who are opting against vaccinations. These shots are safe, effective and there is no link to autism.
As someone who grew up when measles and mumps were rampant, I am thankful we have vaccines so my grandchildren and patients do not have to suffer. If we want to keep these diseases at bay, everyone needs to be vaccinated and have their boosters around ages 11 or 12. Do not space out your shots — there is a schedule for a reason!
Routine vaccines also include the flu shot. Patients sometimes tell me the shot made them sick, but that is simply a coincidence. It is true that the vaccine does not always prevent the flu. However, if your child gets the flu and they had the shot they will likely have a milder case and miss less school.
Your child’s diet also impacts their overall wellness and success in school. With childhood obesity on the rise, it is important to pack those lunch bags with fruits, veggies and whole grains. Many parents, myself included, struggle with picky eaters, but keep encouraging your child to eat the rainbow.
Throughout the years, mental health has become of increasing concern in school-age children. Today, I see many 10-year-olds with symptoms of depression and anxiety. My colleagues and I think it is a result of the extreme pressure that is placed on our youth today, including overscheduled lives and the influence of social media.
Look for warning signs. If your child spends most of their time alone, has extreme mood swings, or is having trouble behaving or concentrating at school, speak with a mental health professional.
This time of year, I like to remind my parents that we are all doing our best. I remember the constant feeling of not knowing if I was doing a good job as a mother. And now, as a grandparent, I can see that it is even harder to keep our children healthy and well adjusted today.
As the school year begins, remember nothing is more important than your child’s physical and mental health. Keep your eyes and ears open. Enjoy the last days of summer by playing outside or taking a family bike ride. And have a great first day of school. I can’t wait to hear my grandkids and my patients talk about what they did!