Northwestern Medicine

Prepare Kids Early for a Healthy School Year

Northwestern Memorial Hospital August 08, 2011

Pediatrician offers tips for easing back into a new routine

CHICAGO, IL – As long summer days of fun in the sun, family vacations and summer camps come to an end, families are preparing for the start of a new school year. While a change in routine can be exciting, experts warn that the pressures associated with new teachers, classmates and homework can be unsettling for a child and recommend parents gear up for the transition back to school early in order to alleviate challenges when the bell rings.

Prepare your kids for a healthy school year“Going back to school can be intimidating for students,” said Anjali Rao, MD, pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. “The shift from casual summer habits to a regimented schedule is one that takes time, flexibility, and participation from all members of the family.”

Rao says there are a number of things parents can do to prepare kids for a new routine and offers five simple tips for a smooth transition.

Set the Alarm Clock
For a happier, healthier transition, don’t wait until the night before school starts to have kids go to bed and get up earlier. Begin practicing your new schedule by setting bed times and using an alarm clock to signal time to wake up at least a few weeks before school starts. If your summer schedule varies drastically from your school schedule, do this gradually and adjust times each week in preparation for the first day.

An Apple a Day
Good nutrition fuels the body and mind. Encourage kids to eat plenty of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to keep their energy levels high and ward off illness. Rao also recommends eating at regular times throughout the day.

Take a Field Trip
Take your child to their school in advance of the first day so they know where their classroom is located, where you will pick them up and drop them off from school, as well as generally what to expect. If possible, allow them a chance to meet their teacher, the school nurse and other staff during your visit. Doing so will help ease anxiety and reduce first-day jitters.

Quiet Time
When school is in session, children are required to stay seated for most of the day. This is a significant change from the summer time when kids are moving from activity to activity and are not required to stay focused for long periods of time. To prepare, encourage children to play quiet games, do puzzles and read in intervals throughout the day to help ease them back into the learning process.

Schedule Medical Check-Ups
Annual check-ups with a pediatrician are fundamental to ensure that a child is growing and developing appropriately. Part of this check-up includes immunizations, a key item on the back-to-school checklist. Talk to kids about why the shots are important and the benefits they provide. Because vaccinations vary by age and recommendations are periodically revised, parents should consult their child’s doctor to ensure they stay up-to-date with immunizations.

“Back to school should be an exciting time for parents and children,” said Rao. “Following these simple tips can help get everyone back into the swing of things successfully.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 312.926.0779.

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