Back to school!

How can I help my child transition from the swimming pool to study hall?

It can be hard for kids to leave behind the freedom of summer and trudge back into the classroom. However, the beginning of school is an important and exciting time for parents and children. Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or the first year of high school, a few simple back-to-school preparations can help make the start of a new school year smoother for your children.

First, it is important for your child to be caught up on immunization shots. In fact, most states require children to be immunized before they can attend school. Even if your child has all of the required vaccines, call to make sure that the school has them on file — many children will not be allowed into their classrooms unless their health records are up-to-date.

Some of the necessary immunization shots include the hepatitis B vaccine; the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which prevents pneumonia and meningitis; the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTaP); the polio vaccine (IPV); and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). Children entering middle school should receive second diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, and measles, mumps and rubella vaccines. Check with your child’s doctor to make sure her immunizations are current.

Regular physical exams are important as well. The end of summer/beginning of fall is a good time to schedule eye and dental exams, and allergy checkups. If your children have medications that need to be taken during the day, it is a good idea to talk with the school nurse about amount and time. Also, children who participate in sports will benefit from an athletic physical. This pre-season exam can help identify any conditions that may limit ability or lead to injury.

Ensuring a healthy lifestyle for your children outside the doctor’s office is important as well — especially when it comes to nutrition — and you can make sure that they start off the school year with good eating habits. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are more attentive in class, earn higher math grades and have fewer behavioral problems. If your children are running short on time in the mornings, you can prepare simple, nutritious breakfasts that they can eat while waiting for the bus or riding to school.

Some easy meals include sliced fruit with whole wheat bagels and cream cheese, whole grain banana muffins, multigrain toast with peanut butter or shredded cheese, and yogurt with granola as a topping.

Your children’s emotional needs are important as well; starting a new grade or a new school can be unsettling for some children. They may be nervous about raising their hands in class or making new friends. However, parents can do a few simple things to help their children adjust to these changes, including addressing any concerns with teachers, and encouraging participation in after-school activities, such as drama, dance or sports teams. All of these extracurricular activities make it easier for children to make new friends with similar interests.

Heart-healthy activities can help build a stronger immune system, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and strengthen the entire cardiovascular system, including the heart and lungs.

For more information about making the transition back to school easier for your children, contact the nurse or guidance counselor at your children’s school or your family physician. Your children will forget the end-of-summer blues as soon as they realize that the school year can offer as much fun and excitement as their summer vacation!

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