Newswise — Heading back to school after the long summer causes jubilation in many parents but the adjustment and the anxiety for children can make the transition very difficult. To help ease that transition, Rowan Medicine pediatrician Dr. Tanya Kadrmas-Iannuzzi offers these tips and advice for parents to follow:

Easing back-to-school nerves

Some kids are nervous or anxious about starting or going back to school – they are uncertain about leaving the home or separating from their parents. This may be more likely if there has been a trauma or illness in the family.

To ease a child’s anxieties avoiding using these phrases that can color a child’s ideas or interpretations:

  • “I’m going to miss you so much”
  • “What will I do without you"
  • “I know, school’s terrible.” 

Instead, embolden your child to face the challenges ahead by focusing on the positives with comments like:

  • “I know your new teacher can’t wait to meet you and the rest of her new students.”
  • “It will be exciting to see your friends and to see what new friends you will meet.”
  • “You are going to have lots of new opportunities to learn more about the things that interest you the most.”

Shopping without conflicts

Back-to-school shopping can be a chore, but, to quote Mary Poppins, “For every task that is to be done you find a little fun and – snap! – the job’s a game!” You can turn your trip through the mall or department store into fun by:

  • Letting your children help in planning the trip. Being able to choose a binder color or which animal will be on a folder’s cover can add to the excitement of heading back to school.
  • Turning a shopping trip into a scavenger hunt for supplies with a small reward attached to a successful hunt.
  • Enjoying the time together so that your child will learn to enjoy the time, too.

And, don’t worry if last year’s school clothes no longer fit. It’s normal, and in most cases reassuring, when young children are outgrowing their clothes from one year to the next. 

Create an appetite for learning

A good breakfast is the start to a good day. Your child’s still-forming brain needs glucose and nutrients to run and function well. Try to get protein rich foods into your breakfast meal plan so that the high carbs that children are inclined to prefer don’t cause that sugar crash later in the morning.  Don’t be reluctant to let your child suggest healthy lunch and breakfast preferences. They are more likely to eat ones they helped pick out and that are readily available at home.

Include foods in your children’s lunchboxes that have them looking forward to lunch on a trying school day. It may just be the day’s silver lining, especially for food allergy children.

Vaccines and forms

Children entering new schools typically need new forms completed by their doctor. Children who did not get their booster shots in preschool (age 4) will typically need these vaccines:

  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella )
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
  • A polio booster
  • DTap (Diphteria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine

Annual flu vaccines, typically available in mid-September, are recommended for all children over six months and, in fact, are required for preschool aged children in daycare settings.  

Children older than 11 years and entering sixth grade need a tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) booster and may need to get a meningitis vaccine.

Of note, the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination protects against certain forms of cancer and can be started after age 9, although it is usually administered at 11-12 years of age.

Children participating in a school sports program will likely need a “pre-participation” form from their physician. This will check for possible risk factors, caution the school as to which sports are safe for that child’s participation and identify the need for a screening EKG or improved asthma control plan.

Medications and emergency plans

Before the academic year begins, check your school’s website for forms to be completed by your pediatrician if your child requires medications during the school day or on a regular or emergency basis. Schools will typically require forms like an asthma action plan or a food allergy action plan. Your child’s pediatrician can arrange to complete them as part of the child’s yearly wellness visit.

Special needs help

If needed, take time before school bells ring to make sure any specialized education plan is in place. If there are accommodations based on a diagnosis that have helped your child, make sure the teacher is aware of these and tries to adhere to the recommendations. Keep those lines of communication open. Identifying any problems early on can yield an appropriate intervention before you, your child and the teacher become frustrated or overwhelmed, shutting down to ideas to remedy problems.

Create a safe after-school plan

The first few days of school can be confusing for kids and school personnel alike, so make sure your plan is in place and both your child and the school are aware of it. Some programs have busing while others have in-school programs. If your family opts for caregivers, clearly identify their names, relationships and permissions so that no one else is inappropriately entrusted with the care of your child. Children who know where they are supposed to be and who will be with them will have an additional sense of safety and security. Because some families have complicated custody plans, make sure to clarify this for the school, teacher and child (which could be as simple as a lunchbox reminder note that they are with dad that day).

Take time to make time

This is a habit that will pay dividends for years to come. Making time when you don’t think you have the time may require a conscious effort. Even though your day as a parent is exhausting and begins way too early and ends too late, your investment in going over homework, studying with your children or discussing their day implies an interest and an importance in their school work and their life. Your time commitment will instill in your children the drive to succeed even after they surpass your ability to help them.

“Starting the school year right with planning, preparation and even a little fun can set a tone for success that will carry throughout the school year,” says Dr. Kadrmas-Iannuzzi. “Make it a great new school year and remember that a physician is your partner in care just as your child’s teacher is a partner in learning. Parents, teachers and physicians all have the same goal – a successful and happy child!”

About Rowan University

Rowan University is a Carnegie-classified national doctoral research institution dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education. It offers bachelor’s through doctoral and professional programs to 19,500 students through its campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, New Jersey. Home to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the School of Osteopathic Medicine, it also comprises the William G. Rohrer College of Business; the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering; the colleges of Communication & Creative Arts, Education, Humanities & Social Sciences, Performing Arts, and Science & Mathematics; the schools of Health Professions and Earth & Environment; the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and a multidisciplinary honors college. Rowan is collaborating with regional leaders to create research and academic programs in health sciences. The University has earned national recognition for innovation; commitment to high-quality, affordable education; and developing public-private partnerships.

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