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Tips for a healthy and stress-free school year

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Summer vacation is coming to a close, which means it’s time to start thinking about the approaching school year. Whether your kids are headed to pre-school or the fourth grade, starting a checklist early will save you from a chorus of complaints during the final days of summer.

Here are some recommendations to ensure that your kids will be ready for their first days of school:

• Make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your kids’ school will provide a list of vaccinations and health checks that are required and recommended before the first day of classes. Doctors’ offices can be busy this time of year, so book your appointments early.

• Share your kids’ special health needs with the school. Before the first day, notify the school of any medications, allergies or health concerns.

• Talk about the change now. For your youngest kids, preschool brings amazing experiences but also new challenges. Children respond well to structure and routine, and preschools are designed to cater to these needs. Start talking about the expectations now—respecting peers and teachers, sharing, being good listeners. By establishing a routine a young age, your child will have a smooth transition into elementary school.

• Start a nightly routine. Begin easing your kids into a nightly routine to simulate the early morning process. This includes: establishing a set bedtime, packing essentials in a backpack, picking clothes to wear for the next day and leaving enough time for a healthy breakfast. A routine reduces stress, allowing your kids to be more at ease and more willing to participate in their classes.

• Think about the cafeteria: Whether your kids are taking a lunch or eating cafeteria food, it’s always good to talk about healthy choices. If you’re packing a lunch at home, ask your kids to help you choose what to put in their lunch. Incorporate fruits, whole grains and vegetables. If they are buying a lunch, suggest that they buy a sandwich and carrot sticks instead of unhealthier options like pizza and fries.

• Scope out the landscape of the school. Going back to school can be difficult for kids of any age, and it’s even more difficult if they don’t know where they’re going. Walk them around the building so they’re familiar with the layout and their schedule.

• Prepare an emergency card. Make sure your kids know who to contact in case of emergency. This is also a good time to help your young kids memorize their home address and phone number, if they don’t know it yet.

• Plan for certain scenarios. As parents, we sometimes expect the worst. You and your kids should go over potential scenarios, such as: What if I miss the bus? What if Mom and Dad are held up at the office, and no one is home? What if I forget my homework at home? By answering these questions ahead of time, your kids will be more at ease if any of these situations do arise.

Sharon Robinson, MD, is a pediatrician at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

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