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by Pramod Narula, M.D.


   How can I help my child transition from the swimming pool to study hall?


   Whether it's the first day of kindergarten or the first year of high school, a few simple back-to-school preparations can help make the start of a new school year easier for your children.

   Although many childhood diseases that were prevalent 50 years ago are no longer common, it's still necessary to protect children with vaccines. In fact, all states require children to be immunized before they can attend school. Most states require that children receive the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT), polio and measles, mumps and rubella vaccines. Children entering middle school should receive a second DPT and measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Check with your pediatrician to update immunizations.

   Besides being immunized, it's important for students to receive regular physical exams. The end of summer is a good time to schedule eye and dental exams, as well as allergy checkups. If your children suffer from chronic conditions or must take a prescription medication, it is a good idea to talk with the school nurse before school starts. Children who participate in sports will also need an athletic physical. This pre-season exam can help identify any conditions that may limit ability or lead to injury.

   Starting a new grade or a new school can be somewhat unsettling for some children. They may be nervous about finding their classroom or making new friends. Parents can do a few simple things to help their children adjust to these changes, including visiting the school. Many elementary schools offer kindergarten orientation programs that allow students to meet their teacher and see the classroom before the first day. Middle schools and high schools may offer similar programs in which new students can find their lockers and classrooms, meet teachers and learn about extra-curricular activities.

   Parents can also help to promote friendships — a friendly face on the first day can help calm fears. Encourage your children to make friends with neighborhood children attending the same school. Participating in summer sports and other activities may also facilitate friendships.

   Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are more attentive in class, earn higher math grades and have fewer behavioral problems. Hectic schedules can make it difficult to ensure that your children get healthful meals. Most schools offer balanced lunches and some offer breakfast. Parents can also prepare simple, nutritious breakfasts children can eat while waiting for the bus. Some easy ideas include: sliced fruit and bagels with cream cheese;  whole-grain banana muffins; English muffins with peanut butter or shredded cheese; and yogurt with granola topping.

   For more information about making the transition back to school easier for your children, contact the nurse or guidance counselor at your children's school, or your family physician.


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