It’s That Time Again! Our Best Back-to-School Tips

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Wow, where did the summer go! Is it really time to start school again?

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we feel the same way. We’re parents too and feel the same pangs of anxiety, and relief, as many of our patients’ parents when school rolls around every year. Is my child ready for a new year, new expectations, new friends, new teachers, new challenges?

To help kids and their parents navigate the many concerns that come with heading back to school, we’ve put together the following guidelines, tips and advice. Get ready for a new year!

Helping your child stay healthy, physically and emotionally

Cindee J. Ivker, MD, FAAP

With the start of each new school year, parents need to remember the importance of keeping their children healthy, Dr. Peter Richel, one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians, advises. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, “Dr. Pete,” as Dr. Richel is commonly called, states that “ages differ, and therefore needs and concerns differ, but principles remain the same. Healthier children are happier children.”

In his interview, he outlines a number of ways to help children stay mentally and physically healthy during the school year.

  1. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

Many parents slide a bit and let their kids have later bedtimes during the summer. Usually this is balanced with sleeping late in the morning, but once school begins, this won’t be the case. Bedtime routines are very important, especially with early wake-up times, so it’s a good idea to return to the school year schedule a week or two before school starts. Don’t wait until the night before to make this transition.

  1. Try not to overbook children with activities, especially younger children.

To echo point #1, inadequate rest can lead to lowered resistance and an increases susceptibility to sickness.

  1. Make sure your child is getting good nutrition and daily exercise.

Children of all ages need to eat three balanced, nutritious meals a day, including a good breakfast. Snacks should be as healthy as possible. They also need to get daily exercise.

  1. Make sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date.

Certain vaccinations are needed when kids begin school, and requirements may vary from grade to grade and state to state. Check with your pediatrician or for a comprehensive schedule of the CDC-recommended immunizations, vaccines and dosages your child should receive from birth to 18 years old, click here.

  1. Anxiety can be an issue for some children as they start a new school year.

Encourage your children to discuss anything that makes them nervous about returning to school or going to school for the first time. If it is riding the bus that’s causing concern, see if your child can take “practice runs” on the bus, or spend some time imagining with your child that your car is the bus.

  1. Take a school tour if possible.

If your child is worried about the school itself, take a tour before the first day of school to help him/her get oriented and to meet their new teacher. If a younger child is concerned about being separated from you, have him/her pick a special toy or stuffed animal that they can take to school with them. You can also place a note in their lunchbox expressing how proud you are of them, or if they are not reading yet, draw a heart to show them how much you love them.

  1. Check your child’s backpack.

When wearing a backpack, children should use both straps. If they insist on using only one strap slung over a shoulder, they should switch sides every day. Most importantly, make sure the backpack is not going to cause neck, shoulder or back problems.

  1. Avoid putting too much pressure on your child to do well. This can hurt more than help.

Don’t demand perfection. Instead, simply encourage your child to do their best. Students who achieve success, whether as scholars, athletes, musicians, inventors, teachers, physicians or in a host of other professions, almost always exhibit self-confidence and healthy self-esteem. They typically were not brow-beaten to achieve or else. Your child will feel enough pressure as he/she works their way through school and beyond, and does not need the added stress of being expected to ace every test, win every game and be in every club. Also, try not to compare your child to siblings or friends. As always, they are their own person.

Starting kindergarten

To help make the transition from home to kindergarten less stressful for your child, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Talk with your child about what to expect at school, starting over the summer.Reading stories together about the first day of school is a great idea.
  2. Make sure your child has mastered some basic self-care skills prior to the first day of school. He/she should be able to dress themselves and use the toilet by themselves. Easy-to-remove clothing make this easier, such as pants with an elastic waist.
  3. Adequate sleep and nutritious meals will give your child energy to make it through a long day and help them pay attention so they can learn.
  4. Don’t tell your child that you will miss him/her or be sad that they are away at school. Instead, focus on how much fun they’ll have at school, the new friends they’ll make and all the new things they’ll learn.

Surviving middle and high school

To help your child be successful in middle and high school, follow these tips:

  1. Help your child get organized and stay organized from the beginning of the school year all the way through the last day of class.
  2. Urge your child to memorize his/her class schedule so they know where they need to be, when.
  3. Attend all parent-teacher conferences. If your child’s grade doesn’t offer them, set one up yourself.
  4. Maintain an ongoing open dialogue with your child about the changes they’re going through, as well as dating, sex, bullying, drugs, screen time, peer pressure, body image, gender identity, grades, tests, college and anything else that’s concerning them.

For older kids going to college or moving out of the house

Whether your teenager is heading off college, technical school, the work force or the military, living on their own for the first time is a big deal. Here are 4 things to think about as your teen moves on and moves out:

  1. Make sure he/she gets enough rest (8-9 hours of sleep a night whenever possible), eats healthy and gets regular exercise. Your teen should make time each day, or at least several times a week, to fit exercise into their schedule.
  2. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drug abuse is a leading cause of teen injury and/or death.
  3. Be aware of sexual health. Safe sex, birth control, gender identification, STDs and avoiding date rape are all vitally important aspects of living on their own.
  4. Your child should know where to go if he/she is having a health problem. Whether your teen is off at college or in his/her own living space, it’s important that they know what to do and where to go if they get sick or injured. Also, they should be familiar with your health insurance if they’re on your health plan. If they want to get their own insurance, make sure they know how to do that.

Some of our blogs we recommend:

At any age, count on us for all kinds of information to help you raise your kids.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re raising teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours. Please come in and see us.

Want to know more about back-to-school readiness? Come see us.

If you would like more advice and guidance on helping your child navigate back-to-school, or if you have questions about any aspects of your child’s health and well-being, please make an appointment to come in to see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. Together with you and your child, we’ll talk about all the exciting experiences that await them at school. Whenever, Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.Make an appt

By Cindee J. Ivker, MD, FAAP, Lead Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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About the Author: ML Ball