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For a Happy, Healthy Return to School, Expert Advice from The Children's Hospital at Montefiore

New York City, NY (September 15, 2011) - Experts from The Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) are available for interviews on a variety of back-to-school issues. Founded just a decade ago, and now one of the most advanced hospitals for children in the nation, CHAM is ranked among the nation's leading institutions in all 10 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. Its physicians and staff are exceeding expectations and making extraordinary contributions in the field of children's health.    

Transition from Summer to a Back-to-School Sleep Schedule

Typically, during the summer, children go to bed later and wake up at different times, because they do not have to follow a school schedule. Shelby Harris, Psy.D., C.BSM, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, can discuss how a child can adjust his/her sleep schedule to once again become acclimated to getting up earlier for school. Dr. Harris can provide advice on how kids can start school well-rested and establish a consistent sleep schedule which can help optimize learning. Her pointers include:

  • Maintain a steady sleep-wake schedule 7 days a week. No catching up on the weekends!
  • Have a regular and relaxing bedtime routine to wind down the hour before bedtime.
  • Make sure each step of the bedtime routine slowly moves closer and closer to the bed (e.g. bath, brush teeth, then into bedroom for PJs, book and finally bed).
  • Get back on a good, healthy diet overall. Oftentimes, kids' diets will change over the summer. Limit sugar, chocolate, soda - especially from lunch afterwards.
  • Limit electronics and schoolwork within an hour of bedtime (and don't allow them during the night either!)

Shelby Harris, Psy.D., C.BSM, Director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, Montefiore Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Neurology/Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine 

Easing a Child's Back-to-School Anxiety

Children as well as teens are often anxious about going back to school. Anxiety can be a result of a transition from elementary to middle school, or challenges socially or academically. Mental health professionals at the Montefiore School Health Program observe many of these issues first-hand and are highly qualified to comment on a wide variety of back-to-school psychological issues. The Montefiore School Health Program, the largest of its kind in the U.S., offers a wide range of medical, dental, mental and community-based services to students and their families in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Bronx. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, this essential program has steadily grown to 18 full-service centers throughout the borough.

Christine Cheng, Ph.D., Psychology Training Coordinator, licensed clinical psychologist, Montefiore School Health Program, and Instructor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Cheng helps children cope with various difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, bereavement and loss, impulse control, and adjustment issues, and she enjoys seeing children overcome them and blossom in their natural social milieu.

Igda Martínez, Psy.D., clinical psychologist, Montefiore School Health Program and Instructor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Martinez provides bilingual mental health services to elementary school children and their families. She works with children suffering from various adjustment, mood and behavioral disorders.

Bullying: What if Your Child is Being Bullied, or is a Bully?

Bullying can impact the wellbeing of children and young people and have serious long-term consequences.  It can undermine educational attainment and self-esteem and can destroy a sense of security.  The most common forms of bullying reported by children are being verbally bullied, followed by exclusion and physical bullying.  Parents and schools also need to be aware that cyber-bullying is affecting younger age groups as more children get mobile phones and have computer access.

Over the past four years, the Montefiore School Health Program mental health division has developed a curriculum called S.T.A.R., Strengthening Tween and Adolescent Relationships. This is an eight-week classroom based program designed to foster healthy relationships between students and reduce teen dating violence. S.T.A.R. was created by Cheryl Hurst, a Senior Social Worker at PS/MS 95 in the Bronx, one of 18 schools that make up the Montefiore School Health program, to teach 12 to 14 year olds how to develop healthy friendships and communicate in nonviolent and supportive ways.  Ms. Hurst identified such a huge need, learning about the problems these kids face: cyber-bullying, financial pressures on parents who have lost jobs, poor parental support and more.

Cheryl Hurst, LCSW, Senior Social Worker, Montefiore School Health Program. Ms. Hurst provides individual mental health counseling using therapeutic modalities to help children and adolescents cope with family, academic and environmental stressors.

The Best School Lunch is Delicious and Energizing

Whether packed in a brown bag or served on a cafeteria tray, a nutritious school lunch that's tasty and satisfying is a welcome midday break for kids and gives them energy to get through the rest of the day. Clinical dietitian Lauren Graf, MS, RD, has tips for parents and kids as they gear up for another school year, from packing a colorful lunch with fresh fruits and vegetables to spotting healthy choices on the cafeteria line. Even for the pickiest of eaters, parents can find the right nutritional balance for their kids and help them adopt good eating habits that can last a lifetime.

Lauren Graf, MS, RD, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, is a specialist in general pediatric nutrition, with a subspecialty in renal, heart and healthy cooking for pediatric patients.    

Does your Child Need Eyeglasses? Now is the Best Time for Pediatric Eye Exams

The start of a new school season is the best time to have your child's eyes examined.  Pediatric ophthalmologist Norman Medow, MD, can discuss the signs that a child may be having vision problems. Some are obvious, such as sitting close to the TV or holding toys close to the eyes. Squinting to see at a distance, covering or closing one eye to see, may also indicate a need for glasses. Dr. Medow reminds parents that many eye disorders are inherited, especially a need for glasses. If Mom or Dad wore glasses at an early age, it would not be unusual for their child to need glasses as well.

Norman Medow, MD, Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Montefiore Medical Center is an expert in glaucoma, cataract and corneal disorders in children.