Northern Westchester Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living Panel of Pediatric Experts Offers Strategies to Help Kids Develop Healthy Routines for the School Year

To stay healthy, it’s important that children two and up wear masks

To help kids adjust to an unusually stressful school year, Northern Westchester Hospital gathered a panel of pediatric experts to talk about how parents can help kids develop healthy routines. The event, held by Northern Westchester Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living in collaboration with Phelps Hospital and Cohen Children’s Medical Center, both part of Northwell Health, provided strategies for homework, exercise, nutrition, and good mental health, as well as the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines.

The panel included Lauren Adler, MD, pediatrician/lead physician at Northwell Health Physician Partners Westchester Health; Cindee Ivker, MD, pediatrician/lead physician at Northwell Health Physician Partners Westchester Health; Vera Feuer, MD, associate vice president, School Mental Health, Northwell Health and director, Pediatric Emergency Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Urgent Care, Cohen Children’s Medical Center; and, was moderated by Amy Rosenfeld MS RD CDN, community outreach program manager for the Center for Healthy Living and Community Health team at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Among their suggestions:

Backpacks: Some backpacks weigh more than 20% of a child’s body weight! When backpacks are too heavy, they can pull children forward, potentially causing back and neck strain, and leading to falls and other dangerous safety issues. Check the construction on your child’s backpack.  Are side straps wide enough?  Are they padded?

Screens:  Kids spend more time than ever looking at computer and TV screens.   Potential issues include eye strain due to poor lighting and the effect of tracking fast moving objects on video games. Make sure kids don’t sit too close to screens.

Exercise:  Kids ages six through 17 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Aerobic and weight bearing activities, such as running, jumping and pushups are important for bone growth, and promote mood boosting hormones that decrease anxiety and depression. After being sedentary for the past year, help kids get back in shape, and make sure they stretch to avoid injury.

Sleep:  Between ages 6-13, children need 9-11 hours of sleep, and teens 13-18 need 8-10 hours.  Sleep improves attention spans, behavior and the ability to learn. Too little sleep raises the risk of anxiety, obesity and depression. Younger children who miss naps become overtired and over stimulated.  To improve your child’s sleep quality, make sure to encourage physical activity during the day and create a bedtime routine. Use this quiet time to encourage children to share any worries. Use bedtime routines to help children who have anxiety rehearse and prepare for the day ahead.

Nutrition:  If you want your children to develop good eating habits, be a good role model, and involve kids in shopping, healthy meal planning, and prep. Make healthy snacks as or more accessible then unhealthy snacks. Keep cut up fruit and vegetables, or a bowl of grapes on the table for easy grabbing.

Homework:  Make sure your child has an efficient place to study.  While some can do their work at the kitchen table, others do better with a quiet space in their bedroom.  Kids should not study lying in their beds or on the floor.  Make sure computer screens are at eye level.

Help kids focus.  Make sure kids get down time with a break and snack before starting homework.  Have them move around and exercise between school and study, and make sure they are hydrated.  Help them avoid procrastination by creating to do lists that divide work into manageable chunks.

Getting help:  If your child is not meeting developmental milestones, speak to your pediatrician. It is important to identify and recognize delays as soon as possible because early intervention helps kids reach their maximum potential. If children are really having trouble concentrating, reach out to their school to see how they’re doing and consider an assessment.

Signs of Stress: Children who are irritable, show lack of interest in activities they used to like, and often complain about headaches and stomach aches maybe be showing signs of stress. If you need help, guidance or mental health support, contact the school counselor, parenting groups or free, pandemic-related resources and emotional support hotlines.

COVID-19:  The United States has had over five million cases of pediatric COVID-19, representing about 15% of all cases. Though most pediatric cases are mild or asymptomatic, children can spread COVID-19. To avoid spreading COVID-19 among unvaccinated children, make sure everyone wears masks, socially distances, and washes their hands. Children two and up should wear masks, and parents should enforce this as a rule not a personal choice. Parents must also serve as role models.

Getting kids vaccinated:  The great news is that kids ages 5-11 will be able to get vaccinations, likely around Halloween. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be vaccinated.  It’s very important that parents realize that doses are different for children of this age. So even if your child is 11-1/2, they should not get the same dose as a 12-year old. Vaccination is a critical tool in fighting COVID-19.

About Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), a member of Northwell Health, provides quality, patient-centered care that is close to home through a unique combination of medical expertise, leading-edge technology, and a commitment to humanity. Over 650 highly-skilled physicians, state-of-the-art technology and professional staff of caregivers are all in place to ensure that you and your family receive treatment in a caring, respectful and nurturing environment. NWH has established extensive internal quality measurements that surpass the standards defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA) National Hospital Quality Measures. Our high-quality standards help to ensure that the treatment you receive at NWH is among the best in the nation. For more information, please visit and connect with us on Facebook.

About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities and more than 16,600 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 76,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,800 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.