12 Tips to Prepare for the Return to School
Every family wants to make sure their children enjoy a safe, happy and productive year as classrooms reopen this fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a list of 12 tips to prepare children for back-to-school season, including several that focus on mental health.
Buying school supplies, arranging for childcare and making sure vaccines are up to date are just part of the checklist. Children can do their part by committing to get adequate sleep, nutritious food and activity – the basics that will keep them healthy.
“It’s common for children to have a few jitters about those first few days back to school or in class with a new teacher or classmates,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health. “This may happen at any age. Families can reassure their child that others feel the same way. It might help to rehearse heading into the new situation. You can ask your child or teen what they are worried about and help them problem-solve ways to master the new situation.”
Tips to Start Off the School Year
Here are 12 tips to help your child start their school year off right:
1. If your child has not had a well child check in the last year, go ahead and schedule a back-to-school physical which will include any needed vaccinations.
2. Starting school again is a good time to engage in conversations with your child about if and how they use social media, which can be beneficial but also problematic for some. We are still learning about the ways social media can affect human health, especially among children and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers resources on social media use, digital technology and youth mental health at aap.org/socialmedia. The AAP also provides a Family Media Plan to help families make technology work in their homes.
3. In addition, make it safe for your child to discuss tough issues with you. Children often avoid talking about touchy subjects, especially if they expect to be judged, lectured or punished. If you haven’t already made this clear, affirm that your child can tell you anything. Emphasize that these conversations will take place in a judgment-free zone and really listen to what your child is saying.
4. Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if yours does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein. If your child does not have time to eat, send them to school with a grab and go snack like a granola bar.
5. During early and middle childhood, children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work. If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding schedules, discipline and homework.
6. Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can. Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Have your child turn off electronic devices well before bedtime.
7. Create an environment that is homework-friendly starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study. Schedule ample time and space for homework. Build this time into choices about participating in after school activities.
8. Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time. Supervise computer and internet use.
9. Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
10. If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with their teacher for recommendations on how to help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
11. If you believe your child would benefit from special education services, submit a request to your school for an Individualized Education Program evaluation. Your pediatrician can help draft a letter of this request.
12. Call your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child, including changes in mental or behavioral health. Look for any notable changes in sleep, weight, eating habits or other everyday patterns. Your pediatrician is here to help.
“Families can help children adjust to earlier bed times a week or two before the new school year starts, just to help them ease into new routines,” Dr. Bode said. “Most of all, you’ll want to focus on the fun, the friendships and the adventure of starting another school year.”
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics News Room |American Academy of Pediatrics: 12 Tips to Prepare for the Return to School, https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/health–safety-tips/american-academy-of-pediatrics-12-tips-to-prepare-for-the-return-to-school | Copyright 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics
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