Back to School Tips
Don’t forget back-to¬-school checkup
Starting the new school year on the right foot can positively influence your child’s confidence and performance, socially and academically.
However, the transition from summer to school can provoke anxiety for children and parents alike. Here are some simple tips for a smooth beginning.
Schedule doctor and dental check-ups at least one month prior to the start of school. You’ll also need to discuss vaccinations with your child’s doctor as most schools require them. Make copies of all health records and emergency information for your records and for use throughout the school year for extracurricular activities or camps she may attend.
Backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of your child’s body weight. The straps should be wide and padded and always worn on both shoulders. Rolling backpacks are an option, if your school allows them.
Never let your child skip breakfast. Studies have shown that eating a wholesome breakfast boosts a child’s attention span, which is key for learning. Offer fresh fruit, milk and whole-grain cereals in the morning.
If your child has a food allergy, make sure you notify his teacher. Insert a card in his backpack or lunch box that alerts others to the allergy as well. Any regularly scheduled medications that the child needs to take during the school day should be discussed with the school nurse.
Teach your child about cleanliness, especially the importance of washing her hands. Simple hand washing after coughing or sneezing, eating, or using the bathroom can significantly reduce transmission of colds and viruses. Teach them not to share drinks, foods, straws or contact lenses. Place a small hand sanitizer in her backpack.
Encourage your child to exercise or, if he is old enough, to join a club or start an extracurricular activity or sport. A sound mind and fit body go hand-in-hand.
Bus: Teach your child to always wear her seatbelt and remain seated until she arrives at her destination. Accompany your child to the bus stop or talk to other parents about rotating the duty so the children are supervised.
Car: All children younger than 13 years should ride in the rear seat of the vehicle. Children ages 4-8 who are 40-80 pounds and shorter than 5’7″ should sit in a booster seat. Seatbelts are mandatory, no matter the age. If carpooling, make sure these guidelines are followed by the other parents.
Bike: Helmets should always be worn, ride on the right in the same direction as traffic. Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. Avoid letting your child bike alone.
Walk: Make sure the route to school is safe with well-trained crossing guards at intersections. Make sure he walks with buddies or a parent. Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills, assessing whether he is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
Bullying can be physical, verbal or social and can happen anywhere, even over the Internet. If your child becomes the target of a bully, teach her to stay calm, speak in a firm voice and seek help from an adult. If your child is the bully, address her aggressive behavior through non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges. Be firm in telling her that the behavior must end. Enlist the help of the school principal, teacher or counselor if necessary. If your child is the bystander, teach her to seek help from an adult for the victim.
Homework can be a stressful time for the whole family. Let your child have a healthy snack prior to starting his work. Designate areas where homework should be done and turn off distractions such as the TV, video games, cell phones and mp3 players. Older children should have the option of studying in their room. Younger children need supervision, so the kitchen or family room is ideal.
Establish rules about the use of the TV, phone and computer, especially social networking. You may want to set time limits that apply during the school week.
Children display an array of behaviors. Be active in your child’s school experience and learn how his teacher likes to communicate (phone, email) so you can get regular feedback. This can help you identify problems early so they can be addressed by you or the appropriate professional.
School should be a memorable experience that helps your child blossoms socially, physically, emotionally and academically. Setting a solid foundation in the beginning will allow your child to be successful and sprout wings.
Dr. Deepa Verma is the head of a family practice in Palm Harbor and has worked with Morton Plant Mease hospitals. She has three sons Milan, Kai and Saahil.