Back to School

Parents have been testing me with questions about how to make sure their children get a healthy start as they head back to school at the end of the summer. Let me take on that assignment and provide some information on that topic. First, schedule a physical with your pediatrician, to make sure your child is in good health and that immunizations are up-to-date. If your child does have a medical issue such as an allergy or chronic illness like diabetes or asthma, make sure you review this with your childs teacher and the school nurse so an emergency medical plan is in place while your child is at school. Make sure your child has a good breakfast either at home or through a school breakfast program. A good morning meal ensures that your child will be more alert and perform better throughout the school day. Its also a good idea to make sure that the bedtime routines are in place even before school starts, since concentration is improved if a child gets a good nights sleep. Remember, even teenagers should get at least nine hours of sleep. Try to meet your childs teacher before the year begins. If your work responsibilities make this difficult, write a note or e-mail introducing yourself and your child. This establishes a channel of open communication that will hopefully continue throughout the year. Dont forget to read all the notices your child brings home about events and activities at the school, so that you can stay informed about whats going on in your childs day. Finally, dont forget to include your children in the planning of their school schedule. For example, your child can help decide whether a snack comes before, during or after homework is done. Having your child pick out the school supplies can build excitement about the upcoming school year. This creates a family partnership that will help ensure that homework and learning is a fun and regular part of your familys schedule. Hopefully, tips like this will allow you to go to the head of the class when it comes to making sure your child gets a great start going back to school this year. Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Childrens Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch First with Kids weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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