By: Shawn Marie Watson, Chestermere Lifepath Wellness

Preparing for back-to-school can be a stressful time for parents.  The following checklist is a great place to start, to ensure a healthy back-to-school experience:

* Schedule Eye Examinations: Schedule an eye examination before school starts to help identify any problems your child might have with their eyesight, before it becomes an issue academically.  According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, 25% of school aged children have vision problems. Children that are nearsighted will often have problems seeing words written on the whiteboard however, children may not realize they are struggling to see.  Those that do are often reluctant to point out problems with their sight to their parents and/or teacher because they do not want to wear glasses.  Some children have difficulty reading up-close if they are farsighted.  Reading small print in a book can cause headaches and eyestrain, which can be very distracting.  Children become discouraged because they are having a hard time making out the letters, which can impact children learning how to read.  If your child does require glasses, scheduling an eye exam now will ensure your child has their glasses before school starts, allowing for some extra time to become comfortable with their new glasses before their first day of school.

* See Your Dentist: If your child is due for a check-up or if it is their first visit, scheduling a dental visit before school starts can alleviate many problems throughout the school year.  According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease.  Tooth decay can lead to pain and discomfort in affected teeth, if left untreated.  If decay is detected and appointments are necessary, scheduling appointments prior to school starting will prevent your child from missing class time.

Buy an Ergonomic Backpack: Auburn University conducted a study that found 67% of children suffer from muscle soreness, 51% have some form of back pain, 24% experience numbness and 15% have shoulder pain.  Overloaded and ill-fitting backpacks are one of the most common causes of these complaints.  The best way to prevent back pain is to purchase an ergonomic schoolbag that meets the following criteria: has two, wide padded straps and a padded back, is no longer than the child’s back, is lightweight, and has both a chest and waist strap.  Retailers that specialize in luggage and backpacks will have the expertise to help fit your child with a backpack that is best for their needs.

* Healthy Meal Planning: Meal planning for back-to-school takes the guesswork out of busy mornings while at the same time, ensuring healthy and nutritious foods are available for lunches and snacks.  Start out by sitting down with your children and make a list of what they would like to see in their lunch bag.  Write down all of their requests, even the unhealthy choices but ask them to make choices from each food group.  For unhealthy choices, offer a healthier option and compromise by having one or two days each month where they can have something in their lunch that they consider a treat. Some choices kids make – even though they are considered healthy – are not permitted at school.  Many schools are becoming more conscious of life-threatening food allergies and request that food containing all types of nuts and peanut butter remain out of the classroom.  Look for healthy alternatives that will satisfy your child’s food preferences while ensuring children with life threatening food allergies are safe at school.

Proper Footwear Counts:  Children spend approximately 30 hours every week in the same pair of shoes, which explains why they become worn out so quickly.  Shoes that do not fit correctly tend to wear out faster than a pair that has been sized for your child’s feet. When looking for a pair of shoes, the first consideration to make is the time of day you go shopping for the shoes.  Waiting until later in the day, opposed to shopping in the morning, will give you a better representation of how the shoes will fit your child throughout the day.  As we walk around, feet tend to become slightly swollen.  Waiting until later in the day will ensure a truer fit. When trying on shoes, knowing the correct shoe size for both feet is very important.  Shop at a shoe store where the staff are trained to properly measure feet.  When considering the width of the shoe, the widest part of the foot should line up with the widest part of the shoe.  Regardless of how they fasten, shoes should hold the heel firmly in the back of the shoe and also be comfortable.  In addition, it is best to avoid the temptation to buy shoes larger than their actual size.  Oversized shoes can lead to injury, along with soreness and discomfort because the muscles of the foot are working harder to keep the shoe in place.