Help children overcome challenges this school year

It’s back-to-school time and for some families it may be an exciting time, but for others, it can be a stressful time, too. Recent surveys suggest that more than 80-per-cent of children say school is the major source of stress in their life. The two major types of stresses are social (bullies, difficulties making friends, missing home, etc.) and academic (difficulties in doing the work or problems with a specific subject.

A lot of the stress and anxiety (child and parental) can be avoided or decreased if parents prepare themselves and their children for the upcoming new school year. The most important thing is to find out what is expected of your child and what the specific new challenges will be. The more prepared a child, the less surprises there will be, ensuring a smoother beginning. Some of the challenges or issues include:

  • A new school
  • First time going to school
  • First time on a school bus
  • What is the school’s philosophy: start right away with homework or ease into assignments
  • What is the school’s bullying policy

Parents of children with learning or other school-related difficulties should meet the teacher(s) and/or principal before school begins in order to:

  • Describe and discuss the problems and any anticipated difficulties;
  • Agree to a joint plan on how to address the problems or difficulties;
  • Make arrangements on how often the school will give you regular feedback on the child’s progress;
  • Settle on how the school to home communication occurs logistically: phone call? Or even a home/school notebook.

Getting enough sleep and eating a proper breakfast

It is important to ensure children are well rested, have had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast before starting school. This is, of course, important every school day, but especially important during the first days back, when children will need to be as rested and relaxed as possible. Tired children tend to be more anxious, impatient and more easily upset and frustrated.

Medical check-ups, chronic medical conditions or food allergies

It is important that your child receives a medical check up before school starts. During the evaluation, a hearing and vision screening should be done. The necessary immunizations or booster shots, if needed, may also be given at this time.

If a child has a chronic medical condition requiring special attention at school, the administration of medication at school or any limitation of a physical activities, make sure you get all the proper paper work prepared by your doctor so the school can easily understand what is expected of them regarding your child’s medical needs and condition.

Similarly, if your child had food allergies, it is important to supply the school with the necessary medical documents describing what to avoid and how to deal with accidental ingestion of a food your child is allergic to. The school should always have an EpiPen or adrenalin injector (not expired) on hand that is easily accessible at all times. The school personnel should all know how to handle allergic reactions.

Here are some other suggestions for parents that may help make going to school easier:

  • Before school starts, make sure that all the logistics and paper work have been done in order to avoid any confusion and extra stress during the first day of school.
  • When appropriate, drive or walk your child to school and pick him/her up on the first day. Going to school with a friend from the neighbourhood may help, too.
  • Make sure you know lunch and snack times and rules. For example: does your child have to buy lunch? Is the school “peanut and nut-free”?
  • When your child is starting the year at a new school, recognize that he/she might need extra support. Talk to your child about his/her thoughts and fears about the new school. It’s also a good idea to visit the school with your child before school begins. Looking into the new classroom and meeting the new teacher in advance (and principal) will help make the first official day of school easier. Also, if possible, meeting a new classmate or two before school starts is also a good idea.

Pediatrician and health communications pioneer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has produced hundreds of articles, booklets and videos on a variety of child health issues. His highly acclaimed, groundbreaking book for parents focusing on the importance of the first 18 months of life, Baby Come Home, was released in early 2015 and is an Amazon bestseller. Visit and follow Dr. Paul on Twitter: @thedrpaul.