The start of a new school year can be exciting and scary for a child. You can help make sure your student has a great school year by following these tips.
Make sure your child gets enough shut-eye.
“It’s very important for children to get the sleep that their bodies need at night to allow them to do their best while awake during the day,” says David Feazell, MD, a UCLA pediatrician in Santa Monica. Elementary-aged children typically need nine-to-12 hours of sleep each night, while teenagers should get eight-to-10 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, most children do not get enough sleep, which makes learning more difficult. Dr. Feazell recommends having a consistent bedtime routine and getting up around the same hour each day. Parents should also limit screen time as bedtime approaches and instead get their child to read a book.
Choose brain-healthy foods.
“A healthy breakfast with proteins such as eggs and milk can give your child the energy he or she needs to start off the school day right,” says Anuradha Seshadri, MD, a UCLA internal medicine and pediatric specialist who treats patients in Los Angeles. When packing lunches or snacks, it’s important to include a variety of healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat breads, low-fat dairy products and water or milk. “Try to limit excessively sugary products such as juice, gummy candies, chips and crackers,” she says.
Help ease worries.
It’s normal for a child to feel some school-related anxiety, Dr. Feazell says. Talk to your child about potential sources of worry, such as getting lost, fitting in and making friends. “Normalize your child’s feelings by reminding your child that his or her friends probably feel the same way,” Dr. Feazell says. If your child is just starting school or is going to a new school, Dr. Feazell recommends visiting the facility over the summer. “If a child is struggling, parents should absolutely reach out to the teacher to solicit advice and assistance,” he says.
Be on the lookout for bullying.
Failing grades, school absences and social isolation may suggest that your child is the target of bullying. “Try to engage your child in discussions about his or her school day to help gain a perspective on any issues that may be occurring in the classroom,” Dr. Seshadri says. “Ask open-ended questions like ‘What good thing happened today? Who do you sit with at lunch, and what do you talk about?’ It’s also helpful to model how to treat others with kindness and respect.”
Fight back against germs.
Bacteria and viruses spread easily in the close confines of a classroom and school bus. “You can protect your child against certain viruses by making sure your child is up-to-date on vaccinations and reinforcing good hand-washing habits,” Dr. Feazell says. Keep your child home from school until he or she is fever-free (or symptom-free if your child has a stomach bug) for 24 hours. “Your child will get better faster by resting at home,” he says.