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Success in School Starts with a Healthy Home

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Introducing Dr. Kate Land, Kaiser Permanente pediatrician, engaged parent and voice for healthy kids

KateLandMDWhat role can parents play in strengthening the connection between health at home and health in schools?

Back in November, the Thriving Schools blog shared the PTA perspective on this important question, offering up valuable insights from Heather Parker and Sherri Wilson of the National PTA. Parker and Wilson shared their thoughts on the vital importance of parent and family engagement in creating a link between healthy habits at home and health in schools.

“Healthy lifestyles outside the classroom create success in the classroom. It is important to support students’ success, advocate for every child and make sure that their basic health needs are being met.” ~ Healther Parker, senior manager, health and safety, National PTA.

To bring another perspective on this subject, we are pleased to introduce Dr. Kate Land, Kaiser Permanente pediatrician and Chief of the Department of Patient Education for the Napa and Solano facilities of Northern California.

Dr. Land not only brings a wealth of knowledge around pediatric health. She is also a mother of 3 children, an active blogger and tweeter around topics of family and pediatric health.

We asked Dr. Land about her perspectives on health in the home as it relates to creating a culture of health in schools.


Thriving Schools: It’s been said that healthy schools begin with healthy lifestyles at home. How have you seen this connection play out in your family?

Kate Land: I completely agree. Sending the kids off into the school day with a healthy foundation allows them to thrive at school. Enough sleep, solid nutrition and emotional support give them the best chance of academic, athletic and social success. Families don’t always have the resources or education to provide these elements. That’s one reason why I enjoy partnering with parents to help them understand the basics of how a healthy lifestyle at home will lay the foundation for their kids to have a healthy start to the day.


TS: You have stated that you believe strongly in family dinner times. What do you see as the value of this “ritual”?

KL: It’s clear to me that a healthy foundation of nutrition and rest is just the start. A truly successful partnership between parent and school also requires communication between parent, child and teacher. But this does not always come easily. Ever tried getting a 7th-grade boy to tell you about his school day?

One of the best ways to build a connection is at the dinner table. There, with a few tricks, the conversation can flow and communication can reveal all sorts of information and insight. For example, my family likes to play “2 true, 1 false.” In this game, each person tells the others three things that happened that day – one of those happenings is made up. The rest of us have to guess which of the happenings actually took place. Without noticing, the kids open up a conversation about their school day and I get to ask and learn more.


TS: What tips can you offer to parents to help them support a culture of health at home that might strengthen how their kids perform during the school day?

KL: I’m guessing my kids might call me “strict.” They go to bed at a fairly scheduled hour and wake up with enough time to sit down to eat breakfast in the morning. I am up with them and give them a solid breakfast. Breakfast is such a critical meal to have to start the day off right! I also have the kids make their own lunches (with the rule that each lunch has a fruit, a veggie, water and some form of protein). We eat dinner together at the dinner table as often as possible.

Now, these meals do not have to be complicated or difficult to prepare, but they do have to be healthy with the basics of nutrition covered. I think many parents want to provide healthy choices but aren’t really sure what counts as healthy. Or they feel that making things healthy is harder. I like to work to dispel those myths by talking with parents and writing articles for them to read that inspire them.

Often parents need to be given permission to play a tougher role when feeding their kids. For example, I often tell parents that they have a “job” when feeding their kids and, the kids have a separate “job.” Parents choose what foods to buy and to offer at meals. The kids choose which and how much to eat. Grown ups often over-estimate kids’ serving sizes!

Kids often need to see a new food item many, many times before being willing to adopt it into their diets. So for example, parents should just keep putting one piece of broccoli onto the plate until eventually one night it is tasted!


TS: You are a busy pediatrician and a parent of 3 kids, ages 12, 14 and 17! What advice do you have for other busy parents to support them in making time with their families?

KL: That is hard to answer. I feel as stretched as most parents – it is a hard juggle! For me success seems to come when I am clear with my priorities, when I can see what matters most to me and to my family.

My kids play loads of sports, instruments and often work part-time jobs. But downtime is very important for all of us. So there are many times when we say no to opportunities. Also, when my three ask to do something with me – play a game, watch a show, cook something – I try to say yes and put aside whatever had been on my own agenda. They grow so fast that it is important to me to take advantage of chances to do things together. As a result, my house is messy (really, you’d be fair to call it dirty), my laundry is piled up and I order a lot of pizza (with plenty of veggies and whole wheat crust, of course)! This feels like a small price to pay for the ability to spend time bonding with my kids.

We look forward to sharing more of Dr. Land’s perspectives in future blog posts. For more great advice from Dr. Land, visit her blog: KP Thriving Families. You can also follow her on Twitter at @KPKiddoc.

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