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Preparing for a healthy return to school

Parents have been testing me on how their children can get a healthy start as they head back to school. Let me take on that assignment and provide some information on this topic.

First, be sure your child is in good health. Make sure they have an annual checkup, including that their immunizations are up to date.

Does your child have a medical issue such as an allergy or a chronic illness such as diabetes or asthma? If so, let the school nurse and your child’s teacher know, so an emergency medical plan is in place.

Make sure your children eat a good breakfast, either at home or through a school breakfast program. They will perform better and be more alert with a morning meal in their stomachs. Teach and remind your children to wash their hands after using the bathroom to prevent the spread of germs.

Have bedtime routines in place even before school starts. Concentration improves when a child gets a good night’s sleep. I recommend at least eight to nine hours, even for teenagers.

Try to meet your child’s teacher before the year begins. If you can’t meet with them, write to that teacher to introduce yourself and your child. This establishes a channel of open communication that will hopefully continue throughout the year.

Don’t forget to read all the notices your children bring home about events and activities at the school. This will help you to stay informed about what your children are doing.

Finally, include your children in the planning of their school schedule. For example, your children can help decide whether a snack comes before, during or after homework is done. Having them pick out their school supplies may also make them more excited about the upcoming school year. This helps to ensure that homework and learning are fun and regular parts of your family’s schedule.

Hopefully tips like these will send you to the head of the class when preparing for a great school year.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, MD, College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9-FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.uvmhealth.org/medcenterfirstwithkids.

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