It is hard to believe in the hot weather of summer, but it is almost time for our school-aged children to return to school! Here are some tips for preparing your child for the new school year.
Backpack safety is not something we always think about as parents, but we should make sure that we choose a backpack that is not harmful to our child. Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Organize your child’s backpack to use all of its compartments, and pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight. Remind your child always to use both shoulder straps and adjust the pack so that the bottom sits at your child’s waist.
Traveling To and From School
Plan how your child will get to and from school. If taking a school bus, discuss with your child that they should always board and exit the bus at the locations that provide safe access to the bus or the school building. Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb, and make sure that your child walks where they can see the bus driver. Check to see if your school uses buses with lap/shoulder belts, and if they do not, encourage your school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts. Encourage your child to always wear their belt on a bus as they would in a car.
If your child is biking to school, practice the route before the first day to make sure that your child can manage it. Always wear a bicycle helmet, and ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and bike lanes if they are present. Use appropriate hand signals and wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility.
Children are generally ready to start walking to school on their own at 9-11 years of age. If walking, make sure that your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection. Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school, and practice walking with your child before the first day of school.
Eating During the School Day
Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast do better in school and have better concentration and energy. Make sure your child eats breakfast before going to school or at school if the school provides breakfast. Plan with your child if they are going to eat lunch at school or bring lunch. If they are eating lunch at school, discuss healthy options with them, such as choosing water to drink instead of juice or soda and avoiding sugary snacks.
Bullying can be a problem for many children as they return to school. It can happen at school, on the playground, on a school bus or while walking to school. Teach your child to be comfortable with when and how to ask a trusted adult for help. Recognize the serious nature of bullying and acknowledge your child’s feelings about being bullied. Help your child learn to respond to bullies and be sure that your child knows that bullying is never ok. Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if they are a bystander to bullying as well.
Develop a Sleep Routine
Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. It is essential for children to be able to concentrate and learn as well as they can. Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Having a consistent bedtime routine will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Have your children turn off electronic devices well before bedtime and try to have the home as quiet and calm as possible when younger children are trying to fall asleep.
Good Study Habits
Create an environment that is homework-friendly starting at a young age. Children need a consistent workspace in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study. Schedule ample time for homework when planning other after-school activities. Establish a household rule that television and other electronic devices stay off during homework time. Supervise computer and internet use. If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak to their teacher on how to help them at home or school. Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help.
Immunizations are Up-to-Date
Finally, make sure that all of your child’s required immunizations are up-to-date prior to starting back to school, and have them see their doctor for their yearly physical if needed. Your child’s pediatrician can also be a great source of support if your child is struggling with any aspect of going back to school!
To make sure your child is up-to-date on their immunizations, contact your pediatrician’s office. If your child does not have a primary care physician, our BJC Medical Group pediatricians are ready to make sure your child stays healthy for this school year.