In an article a couple of months ago, I discussed ways to make summer vacation safe and fun. Now, we’ve come to the other half of summer and everyone is rushing to get ready for the new school year. This seems like a perfect time to review some ways to make the transition back to school a little smoother.

Make sure any school forms are completed well before the start of school. This is especially important for children entering kindergarten, seventh grade and 12th grade, when there are required vaccines before enrollment. If you are not sure if your kids are caught up with vaccines, this is the perfect time to call their doctor and find out. 

This is also the time to get sports physicals so that your kids don’t have to miss any practices or games. If your kids have special medical needs, make sure the school is aware and the proper paperwork is completed.

One of the most difficult parts of returning to school is waking up earlier. Many kids – especially teenagers – have gotten used to sleeping in during the summer. Gradually adjusting their bedtimes and wake times can help them acclimate. Don’t let your kids sleep in until noon the week before school. Help them get used to the morning hours again far enough in advance so they are ready to go on day one. This is also the time to get them eating a healthy breakfast every day so that they have the energy they need for school.

For those who are starting a new school as a transition to the next level and those who are the new kid in the class, this time of year can be very stressful. The best way to help with the new-school anxiety is to talk to your children and let them know what to expect in advance. Some schools have orientations or tours, which can be helpful; if not, walking or driving to school and even seeing the outside of the building can add some comfort. 

It is very important to discuss bus safety, for those riding the bus to school. Kids should not approach the bus until it comes to a complete stop. When they get on the bus they should sit down quickly, buckle their seat belts if they are present, and not get up again until the bus stops at school. 

For those walking or riding bikes to school, it is helpful to make sure they know the route, and to ensure the route is safe to travel on their own. Choosing an appropriate-fitting backpack is also important, especially when walking to school. The bag should have two padded straps, a padded back and rest at the waist. And always make sure your kids are wearing properly fitting helmets if biking to school.

Discussing bullying is, unfortunately, a conversation you should have with your children. Review what your kids should do if they see someone else being bullied or if they, themselves, become the victim of bullying. Encourage them not to retaliate or get into a fight. Instead, they should seek out a responsible adult such as their teacher or principal. If that doesn’t work, encourage them to let you know as soon as possible so that you can speak with someone at the school.

The most important thing is to start the year as positively as you can, and establish good study habits. While we all encounter some rough starts adjusting to the school year, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be for everyone.

Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatrics for the Cleveland Jewish News. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma.

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