Protect Against the Flu to Keep Children’s Learning on Track

Between fever and body aches, your child really suffers when flu-stricken – but the virus affects more than just your child’s health. Did you know that staying home with the flu affects your child’s learning, and has consequences for schools? Learn some more reasons why to protect against the flu in today’s guest post from Pamela Kahn, R.N., M.P.H., the Orange County Department of Education’s health and wellness coordinator.It’s no fun seeing your child laid low by the flu. As a parent, you do everything that you can to relieve the fever, body aches, chills, cough and stuffy nose that come with the flu, and to get your child back to normal again.

You aren’t the only one rooting for your child to stay healthy. The flu can have a profound impact on your child’s school. Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, school-aged children are the group with the highest rates of flu illness, and they tend to be the ones who spread the flu.

A recent study showed that about half of school absences during January and February were related to respiratory and intestinal flu-like sickness. In fact, school nurses report that during flu season they often see more than 16 students per day in their offices, and send home on average five sick students each day.

Students with influenza miss more school days than their healthy peers. It’s important to remember that students who miss too much school are less likely to succeed academically. Further, students aren’t the only ones at school affected by the flu: Teacher absenteeism costs time and money, as well as possibly having a negative effect on your student’s learning.

The flu season may also affect school finances. With absenteeism, the Average Daily Attendance rate (money schools receive from the government)  for students during the flu season can decrease by as much as 2 percent, costing the school much-needed dollars.

The effect of widespread flu vaccination protects not only your child, but the whole community because school-aged children can easily share the virus with classmates, teachers and other school staff. Children who are not vaccinated were 2.9 times more likely to get the flu compared with vaccinated children.

So, while good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, and reducing stress  all strengthen kids’ and parents’ overall disease resistance, being vaccinated against the flu has been shown to both decrease the rate of influenza infection and increase rates of school attendance, which is good for your child, their teacher and their school.

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Back to School with Healthy Lunches

By: Sarah Kavlich, RD, CLEC, clinical dietitian at CHOC

As summer comes to a close and the school year kicks into gear, it’s time to establish a routine that works for you and your family. This includes ensuring your child eats nutritious foods that keep him or her healthy and full of energy.

In recent years there has been much discussion about the foods served to children as part of the school lunch program. In order to guarantee that your child is fed a meal that is full of nutrients, flavor, and color, try taking matters into your own hands by sending your child to school with a lunch prepared especially by you.  Preparing lunches yourself does take extra time but the end result is well worth the effort. Start by making a meal plan for the week to help you stay on track. Cook in bulk whenever possible to save time. Try using the MyPlate method as your guide. 

 

Some things to consider when packing a lunch: 

  • Aim for variety each day to avoid taste fatigue.
  • Ensure that the packed lunch is stored at a proper temperature by using ice packs and an insulated lunch box or bag to keep food cold.
  • Determine whether there is access to a microwave to reheat food to a safe temperature, before packing hot foods.

Begin by choosing the vegetable portion of the meal. A salad that uses a sturdy leafy green like kale as your lettuce will hold up well even when prepared and mixed with dressing the morning of or even the night before. Next, choose a fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned in light syrup). Try making fruit kebobs or using a melon baller to make interesting shapes to enhance acceptability with even the pickiest eaters.

Next, choose your whole grain, such as wheat couscous or pasta, brown rice, wheat tortilla, or whole wheat bread. Protein containing foods that travel well include beans, lentils, hummus, tuna or chicken salad, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter, and low sodium lunch meats. Complete the meal with a low fat serving of dairy like light yogurt, cheese, or cottage cheese.

Kale, Broccoli, and Chicken Salad
Try this salad as a go to lunch. Change up the dressing, protein, and add-ins to add variety. Pack some whole grain crackers or a whole wheat tortilla to complete the plate.

Toss together: Cooked chicken cut into bite sized pieces, kale torn into small pieces, broccoli florets, broccoli slaw, thinly sliced brussel sprouts,  chopped tomato, shredded low fat cheese, red onion, dried fruit and nut mix (cranberries and pumpkin seeds), chopped apple, lemon juice, drizzle of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

To learn more, check out these helpful resources:
USDA Choose MyPlate.gov – http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center – http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/

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10 Helpful Homework Tips in the New Year

To help your kids get a good start with school in the new year, check out the following homework help tips from our Kids Health education resource on choc.org.

Parents can be supportive by demonstrating study and organization skills, explaining a tricky problem, or just encouraging kids to take a break!

1. Know the teachers — and what they’re looking for. Attend school events, such as parent-teacher conferences, to meet your child’s teachers. Ask about their homework policies and how you should be involved.
2. Set up a homework-friendly area. Make sure kids have a well-lit place to complete homework. Keep supplies — paper, pencils, glue, scissors — within reach.
3. Schedule a regular study time. Some kids work best in the afternoon, following a snack and play period; others may prefer to wait until after dinner.
4. Help them make a plan. On heavy homework nights or when there’s an especially hefty assignment to tackle, encourage your child break up the work into manageable chunks. Create a work schedule for the night if necessary — and take time for a 15-minute break every hour, if possible.
5. Keep distractions to a minimum. This means no TV, loud music, or phone calls. (Occasionally, though, a phone call to a classmate about an assignment can be helpful.)
6. Make sure kids do their own work. They won’t learn if they don’t think for themselves and make their own mistakes. Parents can make suggestions and help with directions.
7. Be a motivator and monitor. Ask about assignments, quizzes, and tests. Give encouragement, check completed homework, and make yourself available for questions and concerns.
8. Set a good example. Do your kids ever see you diligently balancing your budget or reading a book? Kids are more likely to follow their parents’ examples than their advice.
9. Praise their work and efforts. Post an aced test or art project on the refrigerator. Mention academic achievements to relatives.
10. If there are continuing problems with homework, get help. Talk about it with your child’s teacher. Some kids have trouble seeing the board and may need glasses; others might need an evaluation for a learning problem or attention disorder.

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Backpack Safety Tips Parents Should Know


With school back in, it’s important to remind your kids the importance of wearing their backpack the right way. Improper backpack use can cause back pain, bad posture and other issues. Take a minute to check out this video on backpack safety, from the experts at CHOC Children’s.

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Help Your Child Get Organized This School Year

Check out these tips to help your kids stay organized with everyday tasks – including homework! With help and some practice, kids can develop an effective approach to getting stuff done. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

For kids, all tasks can be broken down into a three-step process – getting organized, staying focused and getting it done. To get started, introduce the 1-2-3 method and help your child practice it in daily life. Even something as simple as brushing teeth requires this approach. Eventually you can apply it to a more complex task, such as a book report.

1. Getting Organized
Explain that this step is all about getting ready. It’s about figuring out what kids need to do and gathering any necessary items.  Help your child make a list of things like: Choose a book. Make sure the book is OK with the teacher. Write down the book and the author’s name. Check the book out of the library. Mark the due date on a calendar.

Then help your child think of the supplies needed: The book, some note cards, a pen for taking notes, the teacher’s list of questions to answer, and a report cover. Have your child gather the supplies where the work will take place.

As the project progresses, show your child how to use the list to check off what’s already done and get ready for what’s next. Demonstrate how to add to the list, too.

2. Staying Focused
Explain that this part is about doing it and sticking with the job. Tell kids this means doing what you’re supposed to do, following what’s on the list, and sticking with it.

It also means focusing when there’s something else your child would rather be doing! While working on the report, a competing idea might pop into your child’s head: “I feel like shooting some hoops now.” Teach kids to challenge that impulse by asking themselves “Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?”

Explain that a tiny break to stretch a little and then get right back to the task at hand is OK. Then kids can make a plan to shoot hoops after the work is done. Let them know that staying focused gets easier with practice.

3. Getting it Done
Explain that this is the part when kids will be finishing up the job. Talk about things like copying work neatly and asking a parent to read it over to help find any mistakes.

Coach your child to take those important final steps: putting his or her name on the report, placing it in a report cover, putting the report in the correct school folder, and putting the folder in the backpack so it’s ready to be turned in.

Once kids know these steps, and how to apply them, they can start tackling tasks more independently. That means chores, and other tasks will get done with increasing consistency and efficiency. Of course, kids will still need guidance, but you probably won’t have to get after them as much. These skills are not only practical, but they will also help your child feel more competent and effective. Kids feel self-confident and proud when they’re able to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities.

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