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A healthy start to the school year ahead

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Summer is flying by and school starts just after Labor Day. We want to make sure that our children’s transition from the pool to the classroom is as smooth and healthy as possible. Do you have any recommended to-dos for August?

The beginning of school is an important time for children, and there are plenty of steps you can (and should) take to help them get off to a healthy start. Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or the last year of high school, a few simple back-to-school preparations can help make the beginning of a new academic year smoother for your children.

First, it is important to be caught up on immunization shots. New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene requires children to be current on their recommended immunizations before they can attend school. These requirements apply to public, private, and parochial school students alike, so even if you are certain your child is up-to-date on his shots, it is advisable to make sure that the school has the updated immunization record on file.

Some of the necessary immunization shots include the hepatitis B vaccine; the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (which prevents pneumonia and meningitis), the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine; the polio vaccine; and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Children entering middle school should receive a second diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine; and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. More information about vaccinations required for students by grade is available on the website of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The end of the summer is a great time to schedule your children’s physical examinations, dental exams, and, if necessary, allergy checkups. It is also important that you communicate any special medication needs to the school. If your children need to take prescription or non-prescription medications during the school day, your healthcare provider may need to complete a form that notifies the school and provides any requisite instructions.

Ensuring a healthy lifestyle for your child is important outside the doctor’s office as well, especially when it comes to nutrition. It’s good to start reinforcing the habit of healthy eating before the school year begins. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are more attentive in class, earn higher grades, and have fewer behavioral problems.

If your children are running short on time in the mornings, you can prepare simple, nutritious breakfasts that they can eat while on their way to school. Some easy ideas include sliced fruit with whole-wheat bagels and cream cheese, multigrain toast with peanut butter or shredded cheese, and plain yogurt with granola as a topping.

A child’s emotional needs are also important. Starting a new grade or a new school can be anxiety-inducing at any age. Children may be nervous about finding their classroom, making new friends, or completing college applications in the months ahead. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to listen to their concerns and help them find solutions. For instance, extracurricular activities such as drama, dance, or sports teams encourage children to make new friends, helping them to avoid the end-of-summer blues and realize that the school year can be as much fun and exciting as summer vacation.

For more information about making the transition back to the classroom easier for your children, as well as any health requirements at your children’s individual schools, contact the schools’ nurses or guidance counselors, or your children’s healthcare providers.

Updated 5:24 pm, December 9, 2016
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