Get your child’s school year off to a healthy start with these tips

back-to-schoolSchedule an annual physical. All children need regular physicals. During a child’s physical, doctors assess growth and development, review family history, screen for any medical conditions and evaluate hearing and vision. They also discuss safety concerns appropriate for the child’s age and any emotional or behavioral issues.

These exams are required for organized sports and other activities, parents often schedule them over the summer.  But clinics can get busier as school nears, so it’s important to schedule them as early in the summer as possible.

Make sure immunizations are up to date. Most states require immunizations, or written proof of exemption, for school-age children to attend school.  Call your physician to make sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date.

Teach your child how to get to and from school safely. Children get to school in various ways—walking, riding bikes, taking a school bus or city bus, or driving with parents.  It’s always important to review safety concerns with children, especially if they ride bikes.  Make sure they wear helmets and respect stoplights and signs. If they ride in cars, it is important they use booster seats and seatbelts.  If they travel by bus, they need to know how to enter and exit safely.

Buy an appropriately sized backpack. Many children experience back and shoulder strain from slinging heavy backpacks over one shoulder. Purchase a backpack with wide padded shoulder straps and a padded back—and advise children to use both shoulder straps regularly. A backpack should not be heavier than 20 percent of a child’s weight.

Teach children how to fight germs.  It is helpful to remind children about healthy habits, such as washing hands after using the bathroom and before eating; not sharing drinks with friends; and not touching their mouth to the water fountain.  To avoid lice, advise children not to share brushes and combs.

Discuss bullying. Unfortunately, bullying can occur on the playground, in the school bus and over the Internet.  Encourage children to have close, supportive friends and teach them to seek an adult’s advice when confronted by bullies.  Parents must set firm and consistent limits on children’s behaviors that can be perceived as threatening or teasing—and reinforce those policies with effective, nonphysical discipline, such as the loss of privileges.

Create an environment conducive to homework. It is important for grade-school children to develop good study habits. Create a permanent workspace in an office or bedroom and a set schedule for doing homework. It also is helpful to establish a household rule that the television stays off during homework time.

Help children boost reading skills by encouraging them to read a little bit each night — and gradually increase that amount.  When parents read with their children, they not only strengthen family bonds, but also reinforce an appreciation for reading.

Establish good lines of communication with children’s teachers. Teachers have a great deal of experience with many children. If they recommend a child be evaluated for learning disorders or emotional or behavioral concerns, it is important that parents consider their advice. Parents need to make time for their children — to be present and available for homework help, emotional support and ongoing discussions about their days at school. If parents have questions or concerns about their child, they should feel free to discuss them with their child’s doctor.


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