Back To School Tips - Cohen Childrens Medical Center


Making This School Year Your Child's Best Ever

When the school year starts, your child will probably return fearing math class, the lunchroom "mystery meat", and being labeled a geek for wearing clothes that went out of fashion last week.

A child starting kindergarten or first grade will also fear isolation, not making friends, and being unable to find the restroom.

Whatever age your child is, you can help alleviate first-day jitters by helping the student plan for a new school year. By planning ahead, you will reinforce the importance of school and ease the worries of a new school year.

But remember: The amount of planning help a student wants differs by education level. An elementary school child needs plenty of help, while a middle school child expects a bit more freedom. An older student might not want Mom and Dad to make any fuss, but parents should find ways to stay involved because high school presents more choices - from deciding which classes to take to choosing after-school activities.

Here's how you can prepare your child for a new school year:

  • Two weeks before the school year begins again, start getting your child back in the habit of going to bed, rising, and eating meals at set times. All youngsters need time to adjust to school schedules after summer activities.
  • Make a special trip to the store to buy school supplies. Let your child pick out a backpack or lunch box.
  • Make a side trip to a clothing store and buy your child a new outfit for the first day.
  • On a calendar, start counting down the days till school begins.
  • Plan a special back-to-school dinner with your child's help. Rise early and prepare a favorite breakfast on the first day of school.

Familiarity helps
It's especially important for a young student to be familiar with new surroundings. Parents often forget how frightening change can be to children. To quell any fears of going to a new school:

  • Drive by the school and point it out to your child.
  • On another day, take the child to the school and walk around. Play on the playground and look in classrooms and the lunchroom.
  • If the child plans to walk to school, walk the route with him or her at least one morning or afternoon. Walk to the bus stop if the youngster will ride the bus.
  • Go to the school's open house so the child can meet the teacher and other students in a relaxed setting.
  • Familiar faces are reassuring on the first day.

Homework rules
The real work begins when school starts. It's a given that children will always hate doing homework no matter what parents say or do. But these suggestions should help with the battle between study and computer games.

Establish a nonnegotiable, daily homework time. A child should read or work on a personal project on days no homework is assigned.

Establish a quiet place for study. Some children do as well on the living-room floor as they do at a desk in the bedroom.

Ask about assignments and whether the child understands them. Help if necessary, but don't do the work.

Always show interest in the child's education. Don't ask, "How was school?" You're likely to get little more than "OK." Instead, ask about the day's math lesson or problems on a dreaded test. Know the books being read, the papers being written, and the projects being assigned.

Watch that Backpack Load
When your child acts as if she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, maybe you should check her backpack. Overloaded or poor-fitting backpacks can hurt girls and boys.

Children can hurt themselves by using poor postures—arching the back, bending forward, twisting, or leaning to one side—while hefting a heavy backpack. Such postures can skew the spine’s alignment so its disks can’t absorb shocks as they should.

Overloaded backpacks also place stress on muscles and soft tissues. That causes fatigue and strain, increasing the risk of neck, shoulder, and back injuries and even nerve damage.

Experts offer these tips for parents and children:

  • Pick a lightweight backpack with two wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back, and a waist strap, which can help spread the load.
  • Use both straps to spread the weight and promote good posture. Using one strap means one side of the body bears most of the weight.
  • Take care when putting on and taking off backpacks. Avoid twisting too much. When bending to pick up a heavy backpack, bend with both knees, not at the waist.
  • Position the backpack evenly in the middle of the back, near the body’s center of gravity. The backpack should sit 2 inches above the waist.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack can be put on and taken off with no trouble. The straps should permit free arm movement without being too loose.
  • Limit the load to 10 to 15 percent or less of the child’s body weight.
  • Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back. Use all the compartments to spread the weight.
  • Make frequent school locker stops to remove items that aren’t needed right away.
  • Remember that rolling backpacks must be carried up stairs.

Bullies: Helping Your Child Cope
Bullying can happen in school, on the playground—and now even on the Internet through social networking sites.Bullying is intentional tormenting that can be physical, social, or psychological. Hitting, shoving, threatening, shunning, and spreading rumors can all be forms of bullying.Kids who experience bullying can become depressed, develop low self-esteem, avoid school, feel physically ill, and even think about killing themselves.

What to look for
There are few things as disturbing as finding out your child is a victim of bullying. Other than seeing signs of physical harm like cuts or bruises, it may be hard to know about bullying unless your child tells you or you ask. That's why it's a good idea to bring up the subject, even if you don't suspect anything. Also, let your children know how important it is to tell an adult if they have been bullied or if they have witnessed any other children being bullied.Changes in your child's normal behavior may be warning signs of bullying. Signs to look for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Inability to sleep well
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wanting to avoid normal routines such as taking the school bus

How to help your child
The first thing you need to do is control your own emotions. One of the reasons kids don't tell parents about bullying is because they are afraid of their parents’ reaction. Stay calm, offer support, and tell your child that you are going to help.Never ignore bullying and never advise your child to tough it out or fight back. Fighting back is almost always a bad idea. Kids who fight get hurt, and both kids may get in trouble.Here are safe tips for helping your child:

  • Reassure your child. Make sure your child knows that he or she is not to blame and should not be ashamed. Praise the courage it took to come forward and tell you about the problem.
  • Learn the facts. Get all the information you can about the bullying, including who is involved, how often it happens, and where it takes place.
  • Let the proper authorities know. Don’t confront the bully's parents on your own. Leave that to school or other officials.
  • Encourage safe activities and friendships. You may want to ask your child's teacher for advice on participating in healthy activities like the arts or athletics.
  • Have a safety plan.Talk about locations, groups of kids, and activities that should be avoided. Make sure your child uses the buddy system when at risk. Discuss where to go and whom to ask for help in case of an incident.

Bullying is a common problem for many kids, but as kids start to learn that bullying is never cool and that adults need to know about any acts of bullying, the situation should get better. Learn about your state’s bullying laws. If you have tried all the standard ways to prevent bullying and still fear for your child's safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.Finally, remember that many kids become bullies because they learn bullying at home. Children who are exposed to anger, shame, and violence are children who are at risk for becoming bullies. You don't want your child to be bullied and you certainly don't want your child to be a bully. Make your home environment safe and supportive.

School Bus Saftey Tips for Children

  • Try to get to your bus stop at least 5 minutes before your bus is supposed to arrive. When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps—6 feet—away from the curb. Line up away from the street.
  • Line up facing the school bus door—not along the side of the school bus.
  • Don't play in the street while waiting for the school bus.
  • Don't approach the bus until the bus has stopped, the door has opened, and the driver says you can get on the bus.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, always walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the street until you are at least five giant steps— 10 feet—ahead of the bus. Then you can cross.
  • Before you cross, make sure the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver. Wait for a signal from the bus driver before you cross the street.
  • When you climb the steps onto the bus, hold onto the handrails.
  • When you get off the bus, make sure that your clothing or book bags don't get caught on the handrails or the doors.
  • Never walk or cross the street behind the bus.
  • If you need to walk beside a bus, always stay three giant steps—6 feet—away from the side of the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick up what you've dropped. The bus driver might not be able to see you.
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