Tips for back to school success

Now's the time to get ready for the first day of school.
Now’s the time to get ready for the first day of school. Photo Credit: iStock

For most NYC students, school starts back up again next week. But don’t wait until the night before to get ready. Here’s our checklist for getting back into the school mindset and starting the year off right.

Get doctor’s visits done

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you’re up to date with immunization requirements from the NYC Department of Education, and try to get those annual physicals, vision and hearing tests and dental exams done before the school year starts. This way, “once school is in session, you don’t have to pull students out of school,” said Dr. Warren Seigel, chair of pediatrics at HHC Coney Island Hospital, who expects a very busy week ahead. While you’re at the doctor’s office, Seigel also recommends getting the flu shot if it’s available. “It’s never too early to get the flu shot, and also never too late,” he said.

Establish a routine

One of the biggest concerns Seigel hears from parents is getting their children back on a routine. But a set structure can help children stay focused and alert at school, and can be especially important for anxious children, said Dr. Dana Levy Hyman, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center. “Preparation is key — the morning of school, wake up extra early, make sure you have breakfast ready, spend that extra time, have a nice structured morning,” she said. “If parents are rushed, that can exacerbate some anxiety.”

Set a sleep schedule

A good routine revolves around bedtime. Preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep, while children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours, but most kids aren’t getting enough, Seigel said. “We know that kids who don’t get enough sleep do much worse in school — their concentration is diminished, they don’t do as well on standardized tests, they fall asleep during the day,” he said. To get back on track, move bedtime up a half hour or so each night this week, and get up a little early in the morning until you’re on the school schedule.

Visit the school

To make the transition easier, touring your child’s school before classes start can help, especially for young ones with separation anxiety who may be clingy or nervous, Levy Hyman said. “Do a dry run of the morning — practice walking them to the door, then turning around and saying goodbye.”

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