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Back to School: Part 2: Middle School. YMC Physicians offer helpful advice

Yankton, SD —For children going into middle school, there are often a whole range of emotions that the student and family are experiencing. More than likely, their new middle school will be larger than elementary schools. They might be changing classrooms for the first time. Plus, the schoolwork will be harder and there will be more classes and more teachers. Yankton Medical Clinic Pediatricians want you to know that if you have a child entering middle school for the first time, it’s normal for your child and your family to be concerned about the new changes.


Dr. Martha Holstein, Pediatrician, and Internal Medicine Physician at Yankton Medical Clinic, suggests, “If parents offer positive support, it can help your child make this transition a positive one for your child. Middle school is a great opportunity to meet new people and for your child to begin to explore who they are and what their interests are. However, we understand that with these changes, it can be overwhelming to both students and parents. She continues, “You can engage with your child by asking, ‘What was something that made you laugh today?’ or ‘What was something that frustrated you today?’ We encourage parents to reach out to their pediatrician for help in managing emotions and if they notice their child is starting to feel stressed. The good news, is that as your child’s pediatrician, we know children, we know their medical history and we love working with parents to develop the best coping skills for your child, and your family.”


Some tips for starting the middle school year off right include developing a healthy sleep routine. Experts agree that getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Students that lack in getting the appropriate sleep struggle with concentrating and learning to their ability. Getting a good night’s sleep for middle-aged students includes turning off electronic devices well before bedtime. Adolescents 13-18 years of age optimal amount of sleep is in the range of 8-10 hours per night. Sleep schedules shift during adolescence; sleeping in later in the mornings and going to bed later is normal at this age.  Keeping a consistent waking and bed time is key to optimizing their sleep.


The American Academy of Pediatrics and the YMC pediatricians recommend a yearly well child check to continue to maintain your child’s health regardless of their participation in sports.  The sports physical for your child can be completed in conjunction with this yearly well checkup. Dr. Dawn Larson, Pediatrician with Yankton Medical Clinic, agrees. “The sports physical is an opportunity to address exercise-specific issues, including injuries, nutrition, training, and exercise programs. Plus, we can help open the conversation regarding sports and the students’ attitudes towards sports, discuss overuse and overtraining to help prevent injuries in the future.”


If your child has any conditions that require medication at school, such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, ADHD, or others, Dr. Larson, and Dr. Holstein both stressed the importance of making sure your child has enough medication for both home and school. Dr. Larson expanded, “It’s also important before school starts to make sure that no required medicines expired over the summer and any forms the school needs are completed by your pediatrician and turned in to the school nurse.”


Dr. Larson offers the following tips for children dealing with making healthy food choices for lunches and snacks. She says, “It’s important for students to have a well-fed mind and body or they will not be able to concentrate or absorb new knowledge. Middle school is a busy time but taking along a healthy snack like carrot sticks or trail mix helps manage hunger between classes and activities. This helps keep you going without overeating later.” Dr. Holstein adds, “Get a copy of the school lunch menu and go through what days your student may want to buy lunch and what days they want to bring their own. Pick foods to help maintain energy during the day such as lean proteins, like chicken, beans, or yogurt and add lots of fruits and veggies to your meal to get the vitamins and minerals you need.  Most importantly, make sure your child eats breakfast containing protein, carbohydrates and fat to start their day off on the right foot and fuel learning in the mornings.”


Middle school is a time of many “new” opportunities for your student and family. It can be an exhilarating time and should be viewed as one of the many positive steps on your child’s journey. For help navigating this time, reach out to your pediatrician.




Resources: American Academy of Pediatrics, kidshealth.org,