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A + For School Success

Help your children start off the new school year in a healthy and safe way.

September has rolled around once again and with it comes the start of a new school year. So, what can parents do to help ensure their children kick off a new year the right way?

Schedule an appointment with your child’s health care provider.

“It’s important for you to touch base each year with your pediatrician,” says Dr. Joseph A. Baust, a pediatrician with Tidewater Physicians Specialty Group in Newport News, Va. Meet with your child’s doctor to make sure immunizations are up to date, that your son or daughter is growing properly and to screen for any potential developmental or behavioral issues that may affect your child in the classroom.

“If concerns with your child’s development are identified, then there are actions that can be taken to intervene and give your child the best chance for future success in school and later in life,” says Dr. Christopher Zamani, a family medicine physician with Bon Secours Ghent Station Medical Associates in Norfolk, Va.

Children should resume school bedtime routines a few weeks prior to the start of school.

“One of the most important things parents can do to help to get their children off to a good start in a new school year is by making sure that they get adequate sleep,” stresses Dr. Monica Baker, a pediatrician with CHKD’s Tidewater Children’s Associates, also in Norfolk. “At least two weeks prior to the first day of school, parents should start adjusting bedtime and wake-up time to prepare for school. Getting adequate sleep typically results in improved academic performance and fewer behavior problems.”

Proper nutrition is important.

“Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast do better in school and have better concentration and more energy,” points out Baker. “It is helpful to look at the school lunch menu ahead of time with your child. You can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is something that your child prefers not to eat. Remember to pack healthy snacks and drinks. Water is the healthiest drink for your child.”

Remind your child of proper handwashing procedures in order to keep germs at bay. “Viral and bacterial illnesses start to plague classrooms within a week of children being back in close proximity to each other, so there is no time like the present to review healthy hand-washing hygiene,” says CHKD pediatrician Dr. Sarah Lee, also with Tidewater Children’s Associates.

Talk with your child about what they anticipate in a new school year.

“A part of going back to school involves reviewing safety with children and teens,” says Dr. Lawrence Pasquinelli, a pediatrician who also practices with Tidewater Children’s Associates. “Parents should review safety issues that may affect their child’s day. It is also a good idea to review items that can and cannot be taken to school and to make sure book bags are not too heavy. Your child’s book bag should not exceed 10 to 20 percent of their weight.”

Shopping for those school supplies is the perfect time to find out what is on your child’s mind. “Make it fun and allow for the opportunity for your child to talk about any concerns they may have about the upcoming year,” suggests Baust.

Adds Zamani: “Being healthy and successful in school as in life is a matter of learning and practice. Your family medicine doctor or pediatrician can be a resource for you and your children in learning how to develop the habits of healthy and successful people; the practice and the commitment, that part is up to you.”

About the author

Brandy Centolanza

Brandy Centolanza is a freelance writer who has contributed regularly to The Health Journal since 2005. She covers health, travel, parenting, education and community issues for several publications in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Brandy lives in James City County with her husband, two children and two cats.