Are the long days of summer, picnics in the park, trips to beach and family vacations really coming to an end? Yes, it’s August and that signals a return to the classroom for children around the Lowcountry. Easing back into the school year is not always an easy task, but there are some things parents can do ahead of time to help their child have a healthy start to begin the new school year.
To begin, South Carolina law requires that children from 5K through grade 12 have proof of having been vaccinated. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control can provide specific details on requirements and local MUSC Children’s Health pediatricians can assist with administering any immunizations that are lacking.
Additionally, should your child require a sports physical, your pediatrician or MUSC Children’s Health After-Hours Center can help fill this need too. The MUSC Children’s Health After-Hours Centers are located in Mount Pleasant, Summerville and North Charleston. For the convenience of parents, After-Hours care is open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from Noon to 7 p.m.
Luke Edmondson, M.D., FAAP, and assistant professor with MUSC Health University Pediatrics in Moncks Corner, recommends your child receive well checks with their pediatrician during the summer so that immunizations are up-to-date before school starts, and parents can address any concerns or special needs their children may have.
Once immunizations and physicals are all in order, it’s also important to think about that first day of school and what can help to make it a little easier.
“Adjusting sleep schedules is a good way to help make sure your child is off to a good start,” said Dr. Edmondson, who recommends adjusting the schedule two weeks before the start of school. He also said weekend sleep should not be altered by more than one hour. Getting enough sleep is important for your child to be successful at school. Often a child who does not receive enough sleep has difficulty with behavior and focus.
Dr. Edmondson suggests that you begin talking about the positive aspects of school to create good anticipation of the first day. Remember that your child will see old friends and meet new ones too. If your child seems nervous about school, address the nervousness before school starts. It also helps to find another child to walk to school or ride on the bus.
If your child is riding the bus, he reminds parents to make sure the child understands the rules on the bus and that the child sit where he/she can see the bus driver, which assures that the driver can see your child.
If the child is walking, and he recommends that a child does not walk alone until they are at least 9 to 11 years of age, he encourages families to have their children walk to school in groups. The more the better, he said. A practice walk gives an opportunity to review the safety rules.
For the child who rides in the car to school, talk to your pediatrician about what kind of car seat is appropriate. He said children should not be out of a booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall and that a child should not sit in the front passenger seat until age 13.
It’s not too early to find the right backpack. Dr. Edmondson said the back pack should have padded shoulder straps and a padded back. He urged parents to not overload the backpack and to adjust the weight of items. If a child has many items to carry, a rolling backpack would be a better option.
Help your child get off to a good start by starting your child with a nutritious breakfast. Studies show that children who eat a good breakfast perform better. They will have better concentration and more energy. Some schools even provide breakfast.
Returning your child to homework assignments and developing good study habits can be challenging too. Help your child find an area that is conducive to homework. Identifying a consistent work space that is quiet, without distractions, helps to promote good study.
Dr. Edmondson said some children do better if they address homework right away and others are better off taking a 30 to 60 minute break before they start. He said the key is to establish a routine with a set schedule and know what works best for your child. Enjoy the school year with your child and should you require help in identifying a pediatrician or finding an After-Hours Center, visit musckids.org. The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers more tips for returning to school at healthykids.org/resources/tips.