Back-to-School Health Tips

Mother helps two young children with their backpacks, text on image reads Back to School Health Tips with Kelcie Cobb, PA-C, Primary Care

COVID-19 cases hit record peaks in many communities this month, and cases in children have risen from 2,352 in August 2020 to more than 18,900 in August 2021, according to public health statistics. With back-to-school routines — and quarantines — in full swing, HealthTalks Now connected with Kelcie Cobb, PA-C, a certified physician assistant with Baptist Health Medical Group Internal Medicine & Pediatrics in Radcliff, Kentucky.

As a primary care provider and a mom, Cobb is familiar with many of the concerns hesitant parents have about sending their child to school during a pandemic. She outlines ways parents can protect young students from the virus, how to help them cope with mental health issues, and signs they might be struggling. She also covers other contagious conditions parents should watch for as students return to the classroom, such as lice, pink eye, strep throat, and hand, foot and mouth disease.

Finally, to ensure a healthy foundation, Cobb addresses the challenge of encouraging children to eat well, practice healthy sleep habits, be physically active, and cut down on screen time.


Episode Summary:

Welcome to the Health Talks NOW podcast, a Baptist Health production committed to bringing you the facts you need to help keep you and your family well. In this episode, host Kendra has a phone conversation with Kelcie Cobb, a Physician Assistant with the Baptist Health Medical Group in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  Kelcie is a mom and a skilled primary care provider, and she and Kendra have known each other for over ten years.  Today, Kelcie joins Kendra to consider the 2021 back-to-school transition specifically focusing on health considerations and tips, as well as information parents need to know.  Of course, this information will include recommendations and questions specific to going back to school in the midst of yet another surge of the COVID-19 pandemic!

Kendra kicks off the conversation by asking what Kelcie has been seeing in terms of kids contracting COVID-19.  While kids have been affected throughout the pandemic and have overwhelmingly fared well, there are still questions to answer about the new surge and strong reasons to both take preventive measures and be vaccinated whenever able.  Parents should also be aware of the mental health toll that the pandemic has taken, and be aware of possible warning signs in their children.  One of the best things parents can do either to help with or prevent mental health trouble is to talk openly about the situation of the pandemic.  They should also model healthy navigating of the crisis, and can make use of online resources.  

COVID-19 is, of course, not the only illness that kids may contract as they begin a new school year.  As the conversation continues, Kendra and Kelcie talk through several other common childhood ailments, with Kelcie detailing what they are and what parents need to know about them.  They first consider head lice before turning to conjunctivitis (pink eye), strep throat, and hand foot and mouth disease.  

There are, of course, simple ways to avoid contact with these illnesses, such as washing hands and not sharing food or hats/hairbrushes, but such measures are not the only things necessary to pursue optimal health in a new school year.  Rather, kids also need proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy sleep habits.  Kendra and Kelcie discuss each of these points in turn, offering parents a wealth of advice on developing consistent routines and on minimizing unhealthy behaviors while encouraging healthy choices.

Key Takeaways: 

  • [0:47] Introduction to episode and today’s guest, Kelcie Cobb, PA-C
  • [1:47] The first topic is the experience of children re: COVID-19. 
  • [6:03] The past year and a half has impacted youth mental health
  • [11:54] Kendra turns to other illnesses, the first being head lice. 
  • [15:01] Next is conjunctivitis – what it is and what parents should know.
  • [16:46] – Kendra and Kelcie discuss strep throat. 
  • [18:01] The last illness Kendra wants to talk about is hand, foot, and mouth disease.
  • [19:32] Watch out for a couple other illnesses, as well as unusual disease peaks.
  • [22:21] Other normal back to school concerns are nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
  • [28:31] Kendra and Kelcie turn from nutrition to physical activity.
  • [34:53] They then discuss healthy sleep.
  • [38:32] If you have an interest in working with Kelcie, schedule an appointment!

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Episode Links: 

Get in touch with Kelcie Cobb, PA-C
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View Transcript

Welcome to HealthTalks NOW, bringing you the facts you need to keep you and your family well. We’re happy you’re tuning in today. Baptist Health is committed to providing compassionate, high quality care that is centered on you. Listen to all of our podcasts to hear from Baptist Health physicians about the latest medical advancements and treatments, and get trusted information on timely health topics from our healthcare professionals. Whether you want to learn more about a specific condition or procedure, or find tips for living a healthy lifestyle, Baptist Health is here to help you become a healthier you.

Kendra: Hello, and welcome to another episode of HealthTalks NOW, a podcast brought to you by Baptist Health, where we get answers to the health and wellness questions that matter most from the providers and experts on the front line. It’s back to school season, which is stressful and exciting and full of change in any given year. But even more so during a global pandemic. Today, I’m joined on the phone with Kelcie Cobb, physician assistant with Baptist Health Medical Group, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics. Kelcie is a mom and a skilled primary care provider, and I have had the honor and privilege of knowing her for over 10 years.

We’re going to be talking through back to school health considerations and tips today, sharing information parents need to know and of course, we’ll cover recommendations and questions, specific to going back to school in the midst of COVID-19. Kelcie, I’m so excited to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for being here. 

Kelcie Cobb: Thank you Kendra for having me today. 

Kendra: Well, let’s start right off the bat with the topic on everybody’s mind, sending kids back to school as the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting yet another surge. There’s a lot of conversation, opinions and hesitation which is completely understandable. First and foremost, are kids getting COVID-19? Is that something you’re seeing in your practice?

Kelcie Cobb: It is. And over the pandemic since it began, we have seen kids from the very beginning. Usually their symptoms are a little more mild and they don’t typically last as long, but we certainly got several kiddos that were testing positive for COVID-19. And especially with the Delta variant, not sure how that’s going to change in kids, if they have fevers, if they get fevers, that they’ll last longer, if their symptoms will last any longer, or anything like that. So with the surge that’s hitting right now, we still will have some time to see. But the good news is that most kiddos recover really well and don’t have a whole lot of issues afterwards with it, but it certainly is affecting everyone. 

Kendra: Well, I think the question on a lot of parents’ minds is, what can they do to protect their children from contracting COVID-19 as they head back to school amidst this most recent spike in cases?

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. So with any type of virus, hand washing, limiting exposures to people that are sick, especially wearing mask at school, these are all just basic things that can help you prevent illness, especially with COVID. And then, of course, the kiddos that are 12 and over, I would absolutely recommend them getting vaccinated to help with that as well.

Kendra: Yes, I think it’s important what you said, is keeping symptomatic kids home, and I think the tricky part of this is that a lot of kids could be asymptomatic and just carrying the virus and we don’t know and those younger kiddos, obviously aren’t vaccinated yet. But if kids are having any kind of COVID related or cold or just seasonal flu symptoms that are on the safe side just to keep them out of school.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. And it doesn’t go just for fevers, either if kids are complaining of headaches or sore throat or runny nose, those are all symptoms that COVID can present with. So just being very cautious about those as well before sending your kids to school if they complain of any of that.

Kendra: Yes, that’s a great point. Well, obviously, like you said, the most critical thing we can do to prevent serious infection and hopefully in this pandemic is to get vaccinated if and when possible. But the tricky thing for sending kids back to school this year is that we only have a vaccine for our teens and our tweens, leaving the youngest kids unprotected. I know this kind of a moving target, but do you have any information or can you weigh in on when we might have a COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12?

Kelcie Cobb: So they are going through trials right now with kiddos younger than 12. There usually is an age cutoff at this point as well. Typically it takes quite a while for the vaccine to go through trials and make sure that it is safe in kids. From what I have heard is that there possibly might be a vaccine available for them later this year, but that’s all just waiting on how the trials go and all of that. So luckily, they do have that going right now and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later to help protect the younger kiddos at school as well.

Kendra: Yes, I think it’s important to note that kids are not little adults. So we can’t just assume that a vaccine is going to work the same way or have the same effect on a child as it does in the adult populations that it’s already being used on. But, like you said, the reassuring part is that the clinical trials are underway in children as young as six months old right now, and that they’re going through the necessary safety protocol and lots of scrutiny to make sure that they’re safe and effective. 

So the pandemic has been a universally stressful time. And I think it’s often easy for us to overlook or dismiss the impact that it’s had on our kids because they’re easily written off as resilient, or it’s assumed that they don’t understand what’s going on. But the past year and a half has most certainly had an impact on the mental health of our youth. And I read a study recently by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that during the pandemic, parents with children ages 5-12 years old reported their children showed elevated symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological stress, and experienced overall worsened mental or emotional health. What are some of the key signs you look for in your practice that parents could consider a potential warning sign that their child is struggling with their mental health?

Kelcie Cobb: So that’s a great question and it’s certainly something that we see. It was interesting to me in practice, because in December of 2019, before the pandemic really started rising and came to the US, I had several, several kiddos from that age of five to 12, that would randomly ask me, well, what about the COVID virus? What do I need to worry about? 

Kendra: Oh, wow.

Kelcie Cobb: It was really surprising to me that kiddos that young, were already worried about things like that. So it definitely is real. And like I said, that was even before it hit the US. So of course since then, our anxiety and some fearfulness has really spiked because of that, and the uncertainties of it all. So in your kiddos, definitely watch for behavioral changes, if they are feeling more emotional, if they are more tearful, or acting out, or angry, or wanting to be alone more, or things like that are always to kind of assess how their mental health is. So it’s definitely something that we’re seeing in the kiddos and things that you want to watch for, especially if you’re noticing any changes at school or their behaviors with peers or anything like that.

Kendra: Yes. I think as a parent, you know your child best. And so you know what your child’s baseline is and what might be out of the ordinary for that child, because not everyone is going to respond to stress in the same way. But like you said, it’s probably also going to present differently for younger kids, like a kindergartner is going to act out their stress and anxiety in a much different way than say a high schooler would. So you know your child best as a parent, but certainly, like you said, all of the things that you mentioned. And also just looking for things like regression in younger kiddos, or in teenagers looking for alcohol or tobacco use or other drug use that may be uncommon. 

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. 

Kendra: So say there’s a parent listening right now and they’re resonating with the warning signs that you just mentioned, they may notice their child is more sullen or more detached, or they’re asking those questions about the virus, where they’re expressing their fear. How can they help their child cope?

Kelcie Cobb: So that’s a great question. A lot of it is just talking to your kiddos and talking through what’s going on. So a lot of times as parents, we take things on ourselves and just try to fix situations, but kiddos are seeing and noticing what’s going on as well. So it’s important that you talk through what is going on and how things affect you and how they could affect them. And sometimes asking, how do you feel about this? With everything going on, how are you feeling at school? Are you noticing differences at school now that it’s the pandemic? And then talking through why things are being done. The reason why you have to wear a mask is to reduce the spread of these illnesses, because that’s one of the things that we can do to help people from not getting sick, ourselves included. 

And so I think really just being open and honest, and sometimes telling your kiddos, I don’t know, but we’ll see you if we can get that answer from a professional, a health professional or someone can make a huge difference, because parents aren’t perfect either and so just being honest with your kids at any age, really even being young, use things that are appropriate for the younger ones, but they still can sense that things are different, even if they don’t really understand what’s going on.

Kendra: Yes, that’s such a good point. I think a lot of times we shortchange kids in what they’re able to understand or what they see. And they see so much. They see the news, when we have it on, they hear things, they hear adults talking, they [inaudible 00:10:39] internalize a lot more than we give them credit for, I think. And as I was getting ready for this episode, I found some great resources that we will link to in the show notes of this episode. But the CDC actually put out a great resource for young kids. It’s like a little activity booklet. 

It’s probably more for preschool to elementary school age, but it goes through and it’s got coloring pages and kind of a little story book that goes throughout and explaining what the virus is, and why we have to take these precautions and how, and how it spreads and really on an age appropriate level, and then gives them some activities to work through to put into practice those disease prevention techniques. And then at the end of the workbook, there’s a little certificate that they can cut out and put their name on and say I learned these things. And so it’s a way to bring it to their level that parents don’t necessarily have to come up with their selves. So, again, we’ll link to that in the show notes of this episode. But yes, you make a great point that sometimes it’s just modeling your own ways to cope, like setting the example for the kids and then just … yes, just being honest with them that we don’t have it all figured out either and we can be scared too. 

So let’s transition a little bit. While COVID-19 has definitely stolen the show, so to speak, it’s not the only illness kids might face as they head back to school. Prevention measures like masking and physical distancing have helped slow the spread of other common illnesses. But as kids return to communal settings, we’re bound to see kids bringing home other infections as well. So quickly, let’s talk through some of the more common ones. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite, I say that tongue in cheek, head lice. What is it and what do parents need to know?

Kelcie Cobb: Oh, head lice. It is a tiny little bug that lives on the scalp. It’s transmitted from person to person direct contact with someone that is infected. So we see it especially in the younger kids because you want to make sure that you are telling them not sharing hats, not sharing anything that touches anyone’s head, trying to stay away from people very closely, which is also important during the pandemic and spreading other types of respiratory illnesses. But if you are noticing that your kiddo is scratching their head a lot, or they’re complaining of things kind of crawling on their head, then you definitely want to check and look, usually they’re kind of like little white mitts, little white specks that can cling to the hair shaft. If you have any questions, then definitely take them to their providers, their healthcare providers to take a look. There are some over the counter medications that you could try as well, but if you need a second opinion to make sure it’s definitely great to get them in, to get them checked out and typically retreat most people in the household if that happens, because it is transmitted so easily.

Kendra: Yes. And it’s so contagious, but it’s largely preventable if we’re teaching kids to not share things that touch their heads, like hair brushes and hats and things like that, which sends me back to our COVID discussion and just generally making sure that we’re talking to kids about … we teach kids to share so much. We kind of hammered into them when they’re young to share and be kind and be generous, but in some situations, it’s important to remind them, we don’t want to share our masks, for example, we don’t want to trade masks with each other. 

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. Yes, very true.

Kendra: We don’t want to share hats and hair brushes and things like that. So that’s always something that I’m reminded of with my own kids. It’s just I hammer into them so much about sharing, but there are some boundaries to set there and to differentiate especially to the youngest kids about what is appropriate to share because that does not include those personal items.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. And especially food and drink as well. Lunch can be really fun for kiddos sitting there and showing what kind of foods they have. So definitely try to discuss that your food, if you have ate off of it or someone else has ate it, is yours only.

Kendra: Right. Right. Well, next let’s talk about conjunctivitis or what people more commonly refer to as pinkeye. Same deal. What is this and what do parents need to know about it?

Kelcie Cobb: So pinkeye is an eye infection that causes the white part for it to turn pink and red and seem really irritated. A lot of kiddos either have some pain, burning or itching with that, it sometimes can affect just one or both eyes, but there’s typically three common cons. There is allergy induced pinkeye, there’s viral pinkeye, and then there’s also bacterial. So typically, viral is one that we see the most common, and it’s just caused by viral illnesses. A lot of times it is in addition to like a runny nose, cough, things like that. Typically, it gets better after two to three days, and that a lot of times happens in both eyes. But sometimes the pink eye can get worse and can cause a lot of pain, and that would be a situation where you would absolutely need to get your kid out to the doctor to get them checked out possibly for antibiotic eyedrops. So it’s something that we see very common, and if you have any questions, then definitely bring it up to your healthcare provider. 

Kendra: Yes, I know with my own kids, I’ve had many mornings of them waking up with their eyes just kind of crusted shut with that goop that you have to pop back open, and it’s always a trip to the doctor after that. But teaching those same hand washing techniques, and I think this year especially we’ve started talking more about not touching our faces, not touching our mouths and our eyes and our nose and that’s just good prevention techniques to continue even after the pandemic is over. 

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely.

Kendra: So this next one is most common in school-aged children and teenagers ages 5-15. Strep throat occurs most often during the school year when large groups of children are in close contact with each other, especially in the late fall and the early spring. Again, what do we need to know about strep throat?

Kelcie Cobb: So strep throat is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. It’s really common for that bacteria to affect the throat. Usually, symptoms start a couple days after being exposed to it. It usually is caused by either drinking after someone or being in close contact to someone that has it. It is pretty contagious as well. So just another talking point to make sure you don’t share food, don’t share drinks, don’t share chapstick and things like that. So usually it is treated with antibiotics and a lot of times the kiddos will complain of sore throat, fevers, especially in the younger kiddos, we sometimes see associated belly pain with that. So it’s usually a quick throat swab in the office that we do to check for that and it’s usually treated with antibiotics. 

Kendra: Okay. And then this last one we’ll discuss today is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than five, hand, foot and mouth disease. And while this is more common in preschoolers or kids attending a childcare setting, it can affect school aged children, especially if a younger sibling is infected. Can you tell us what hand, foot and mouth disease is and what parents could expect from this virus?

Kelcie Cobb: Right. So hand, foot and mouth is a virus. It’s called hand, foot and mouth because typically the way that it presents is with a rash that’s kind of blister like. It’s really common to see that on the hands, feet and mouth. Sometimes, especially in our youngest ones, we see it kind of in the diaper area as well. The rash, a lot of times will pop up pretty quickly, and there’s not much to do for the rash because it is part of the viral infection. So it can be kind of painful for them, but typically, after a couple days, it does go away. You might notice a fever with that and a runny nose or a cough as well, but typically it works its way and does, okay. 

Now, adults certainly can catch it along with the older kiddos, and a lot of times they can have the blisters, but sometimes they just have typical cold like symptoms with a runny nose, cough, fever, things like that. So it’s just like with all the viruses, wash your hands, try to stay away from people that are sick, and things like that. There were a couple things too. So with school starting back, we do see a lot of stomach bugs. So those usually will make their way through real quickly, typically like a 24-hour stomach bug, is really common to see that especially in the first month or two of school, and we haven’t seen more of that, along with the hand, foot and mouth and RSV which is another respiratory virus that we typically see in the young kiddos. But we certainly have seen a lot more of that over the last month or two, since the masking wasn’t mandated as much during that time. So you might see that as school begins as well. Those are real common ones. 

Kendra: That’s such a good point. I’m glad you brought that up. I was actually reading something about RSV, in that we saw an unseasonal summertime spike of RSV this year, and they were saying that they attributed a lot of that to the fact that kids were out of school all last winter, and most of the school year. And so they didn’t get that same interaction with other kids and the same germ swapping that is inevitable in a group setting, and that now that people were getting back out and doing sports again, and the mask mandates were lifted, that we were almost playing catch up from what we missed last winter.

Kelcie Cobb: Yes. And the other thing that I have seen too was the flu. So we’ve seen more of the flu within the last month or two than we have for the last year and a half. 

Kendra: Interesting.

Kelcie Cobb: So I definitely would recommend still getting the flu vaccine because it is still out there. So we are seeing this especially in the kiddos.

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We’re back with Kelcie Cobb, physician assistant at Baptist Health Medical Group, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics. Well, let’s now talk about normal back to school health concerns you know when we’re not living in the middle of a global pandemic, things like nutrition and physical activity and sleep. Obviously, maintaining a healthy weight is important for people of all ages. But according to the CDC, almost one in five children have obesity, which puts them at a risk for numerous health conditions, but can also affect their mental health and self esteem. I never thought of this until I was actually doing some research for this episode, that most children consume half of their calories at school. And on top of that, about 40% of calories consumed by kids ages 2-18 are empty from sugar or solid fats. So let’s talk a little bit about how parents can encourage healthy eating habits and relationships with food as we’re heading back to school.

Kelcie Cobb: Right. So of course there is you can pack lunches or you can get school lunches. Most of the school lunches are pretty nutritious, but if you are packing lunches, make sure that you certainly do something that has a protein in it that’s going to help their energy sustained throughout the day so they’re not crashing with just a lot of the empty calories with chips or granola bars or things like that can sometimes give them that quick burst of energy, but it’s not lasting long. So certainly make sure that you have fruits and vegetables in there too and just try to limit the chips and bars and things like that.

The other thing that I would recommend too is a lot of kiddos get really hungry as soon as they get home, but it’s not quite time for dinner. So making sure that you have a healthy snack available for them. Like I said, I really like including the protein. So something with peanut butter or some type of nuts or something like that, that can sustain them a little bit further. The other thing that I always recommend for my parents and kiddos is just trying to really limit the amount of junk food and snacks that you have at home because we all know that the convenience factor is major for us because most everybody’s pretty busy these days, and so it can be easier to get something that’s prepackaged, open it up for a quick snack, but like I said, sometimes those are more so the empty calories that aren’t going to last you very long. So just really trying to have the healthier snacks available for your kiddos so that when they do get home, it is more convenient for them to get a healthy snack versus just a bag of chips or something like that. And like I said, really just limiting what … the type of food that you have in the house makes a big difference. 

The other problem that I see a lot in kiddos, especially with obesity is what they’re drinking. So of course, I recommend water all throughout the day for kiddos, it’s what they need, but a lot of kiddos will get kind of that extra sugar and calories in sodas, juices or sweet teas, things like that. The other thing that I do recommend is if your kiddo does like juice, then it’s okay to give some juice, but I wouldn’t want them to consume most of their liquid intake. The other thing that you can do to help with that is sometimes making like a fruit smoothie. So putting frozen fruit and milk and even a little bit of yogurt or something like that, can give them a lot more nutrients than just a cup of juice.

Kendra: That’s a great idea. And I also like the idea of saving those peanut butter snacks for when they get home because I know my kids come home just like they haven’t eaten in 100 years. I’m trying to cook dinner and they’re crying and begging for food, and obviously, they can’t take peanut butter or anything, any kind of nut to school. So a lot of times I just avoid buying those all together, but great idea to save those and offer that as the afternoon snack to tide them over to dinner.

Also, most schools, like you said there, the cafeteria nutrition is held to certain standards of nutrition. But most schools also publish their cafeteria menu. So you can get a hold of that as a parent and plan ahead. If you see something that you know your kid is not going to eat, you can use that to gauge when you want to pack lunch versus when they might be able to eat at school. But I think you’re right, modeling those healthy habits as a family so that even if they get to school and they’re presented with all these options, that they don’t forsake the good things for the couple of more splurge food items that they may be able to get their hands on at school. And I know, gosh, as a parent, it’s so tough when you have picky eaters too. You can offer those fruits and vegetables and they just turn their nose up at them. It can be so frustrating as parent.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. And I will just encouraged parents to continue to offer those things. For kiddos, a lot of times it can take up to 100 repeated exposures before they even try certain food. So I’m not saying you have to give a whole apple to their kiddo if you know you’re not going to eat it, but sometimes just offering a slice or two, overtime they may build up the want and desire to try something new. So I would just encourage parents to continue to offer those things, even if their kiddos don’t really want it, but just making it available for them.

Kendra: Yes, that’s actually encouraging to me as a parent, because I know sometimes you feel like you’re just wasting your time and wasting food when you know your kids are going to refuse to eat it. But 100 exposures actually encourages me as a parent that it’s not a lost cause and that I should keep going. Well, in that same vein, moving on to physical activity, we know that television viewing time is correlated to obesity in youth, and that kids should be getting at least an hour of physical activity every day. That said, kids and teens ages 8-18 are spending an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. What screen time tips can you offer parents?

Kelcie Cobb: That is a great question. And it’s certainly something that we are obviously seeing a lot of these days in kiddos and with the unprecedented time of the pandemic and kids having to do at home learning and things like that. It’s certainly something that we’ve seen more of. So it’s been a very non traditional year and a half of course. But with that being said, it’s really beneficial for you to get out especially as a family if you can. So every day just taking a little walk down the neighborhood. Even if you can’t do that, there’s a lot of little exercises that you could do together as a family. Just staying consistent with setting up a new routine. Get home from school, eat a snack, go outside for an hour, exercise, eat dinner, and go on from there, can make a huge difference. It also can help kiddos decompress from the day because obviously they learn a lot at school and it can be a lot for their little brains. So it’s good to get the exercise to release those endorphins and get some happy feelings as well, when they get home. As a parent, of course, it can be easy to just turn the TV on so you can get other stuff done, but like I said, just focus attention, just getting up and doing things together is beneficial for your relationship together, as well as your mental and physical health.

Kendra: Yes. I think some practical applications of that would be turning your devices off when you’re not using them. A lot of people, and I’ve done this too, completely guilty, is just keeping a TV on in the background as background noise, limiting screens before bedtime to get kids to calm down and to reset and get ready for that rest. And then a big one, I think, is monitoring kids’ media consumption and content. So screen time is an inherently a bad thing. Like you said, we’ve been using an unprecedented amount of screen time to educate kids over the past couple of years. But we should be cognizant as parents of test running the apps that they’re going to be using, making sure they’re appropriate, asking questions, considering maybe even a monitoring software or app to make sure that what they’re doing online is appropriate, that they’re not seeing inappropriate content. 

I like what you said about the importance of getting them outside. So maybe making screen time, something that they earn after they do their chores and after they go outside for 30 minutes or more, after they play, after they do this kind of list of things, then they can earn some screen time as a privilege.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. And also it is important to remember in the kiddos that even if they are watching some type of TV or something or an app, sometimes just sitting there with them and going over what’s happening and explaining things a little bit more is very educational for them. Now, I’m not saying do it all day long, but 30 minutes or an hour here or there can really add to their experience and their learning as well. And like you said, it’s a great point to monitor especially in our teenagers and preteens with phones and tablets and TV, what they’re watching and what they’re on, because there’s a lot of different sites out there and really just knowing what’s going on with your kiddo and what they’re exposed to is a big deal.

Kendra: Yes. There’s some great monitoring software and apps out there that you can look into as parents. But I think it’s back to what you said at the top of the show, about just talking and creating that dialogue with your child of being open and honest and sharing your concerns or asking questions and just creating that back and forth where kids know that you’re engaged and that you care, and that they can ask you questions and get an honest answer. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great free tool that allows families to create a custom family media use plan, is, I think, what they call it, and it’s to help create family goals and rules around screen time that align with each individual family’s values and their routines, but they also incorporate guidance from pediatricians on what’s appropriate for media consumption by children’s age. 

So that’s another tool that we’ll link too in the show notes of today’s episode, but I think it’s just great to look around as parents. There’s so many free resources out there to help with this stuff because it is a lot to take on as a parent and it’s not always so intuitive or so obvious what the right or wrong thing to do is. So there are some great tools like that out there that we’ll link too to help out.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. And healthychildren.org is an excellent resource and we use it all the time, just for pretty much anything with your kiddos. So they have nutrition articles, what to do if my kid is a picky eater, how to have healthy fats, and just a whole lot of resources for that as far as mental health, physical health, COVID and other virus questions. So it’s certainly where I point my patients and their kiddos to a lot because it is such good resources.

Kendra: Thank you for mentioning that. Yes, that is all curated by healthcare providers too. So really reliable information as well. Well, I think that’s a good transition into something that a lot of parents struggle with at, gosh, any age is sleep. Getting enough sleep we know is critical for a child to be successful in school. And children who don’t get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning to their full potential. And insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. So let’s start with how much sleep kids actually need. And then what tips you can share to help parents improve sleep habits.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely. So we really like for our younger kiddos to have at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. And for the adolescents like 13 and up, they need at least 8-10 hours of consistent sleep. So it sounds like a lot, but as we know, it is very important for everybody to get their sleep. With the young kiddos, if your child’s waking up at 6:00 o’clock to get up and get ready for school, then that means they need to be going to bed around 8:00, which can sound kind of daunting for some people especially working parents that may not get home until late, but the main thing that I would say is just getting a routine and then staying consistent with it. 

So it’s important for you to prepare your child to go to sleep, and like you had mentioned earlier, just limiting the stimulation, especially with TV or tablets or things at least an hour before they go to sleep, and finding a routine that works for them. For some people, it’s taking a bath or a shower, reading books and just settling down for the day. But I would really try to shoot for usually an earlier bedtime than what they’re doing right now, and then just staying consistent with that.

Kendra: Yes, that’s a great point. And man, I know that in the summertime, it is so easy to get off track with bedtime, and kids are staying up later and sleeping in because they’re not having to get up and go [inaudible 00:37:02]. In the first year, they’re not … I’m going to get up and get online to do school. But one tip somebody gave me and I can’t even remember where I heard it was, it can seem daunting, say your kid is going to bed at 10:00 because it’s been summer, and you need to move their bedtime back to 7:30 or 8:00 for school. I mean, that sounds impossible. As a parent, I move bedtime like two hours. But somebody told me to start by moving them back like 15 minutes a day until you get to your desired bedtime. The small increments over time, it may take you a couple of weeks, but those small increments are a lot easier to manage with kids than it would be to just totally rock their routine.

Kelcie Cobb: Absolutely, absolutely. Yes, I think that you will definitely see a better improvement with that. And I like to tell people, even with our tiny babies, expect at least 7-14 days to make a sleep adjustment for it to stick. So give yourself grace during that period, it may not go exactly how you want it to go initially, but just staying consistent and staying in that routine will definitely help over time. 

Kendra: Yes, that’s a great point. Well, Kelcie, thank you so much for taking time to talk today. It’s been a real honor and pleasure to have you on our show. 

Kelcie Cobb: Well, thank you Kendra. It’s been great speaking with you. 

Kendra: If you’d like to schedule an appointment or get in touch with Kelcie’s office, I’ll include a link to her contact information in the show notes of today’s episode so you can do so. I’ll also include a link to our online provider directory, so that no matter where you’re listening from, you can find a Baptist Health primary care provider near you. Thanks for tuning in today. If you enjoyed today’s episode, would you do us a favor and leave a review wherever you’re listening? That’ll help us reach more listeners and continue to grow this show so we can answer more of your health and wellness questions directly from the experts. I’ll catch you next time on HealthTalks NOW.

Thanks for tuning in to HealthTalks NOW. Staying healthy is a lifelong commitment, and Baptist Health can provide the support you need to lower your risks, improve your quality of life, and protect your long-term health. Visit baptisthealth.com to hear our other podcasts, learn about our services and find more tips to help you stay a step ahead of your health. Baptist Health, be healthier you. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as medical advice. The content in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This podcast is not designed to replace a physician’s medical assessment and medical judgment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions or concerns you may have related to your personal health, or regarding specific medical conditions. To find a Baptist Health provider, please visit baptisthealth.com.


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