Monday Medical: Back-to-school basics |

Monday Medical: Back-to-school basics

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

New backpacks, fresh school supplies and a chance to reconnect with school friends — what’s not to love about the start of another school year?

But with new routines and first-day jitters, the transition back to school can present challenges. Check out these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help your child have a successful start to the new school year.

A stellar first day

It’s normal to feel nervous when starting something new, including a new grade or new school. Have children visit their new classroom or school before the first day, and remind them that lots of students share those same uneasy feelings.

If you have any concerns or questions about the upcoming school year, don’t hesitate to reach out to the school before classes begin. 

Find a buddy

Connect children with another neighborhood kid, so they’ll have a friend to ride the bus or walk to school with. For some children, it can be helpful to be driven to school and picked up on the first day. Get there early to help reduce stress.

Choose the right pack

Backpacks should have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Heavier items should be packed closest to the center of your child’s back and the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% to 20% of your child’s body weight. 

Remind your child to use both shoulder straps to avoid unnecessary strain, and adjust straps so the bottom of the pack hits your child’s waist. Rolling backpacks can be a good choice for students who have to carry heavier loads.

Foster good sleep

If your child has been staying up late and sleeping in through the summer, try to transition to a school sleep schedule a week or two before school begins. Various studies have shown the importance of sleep, and your child will tackle that first week more easily when well-rested.

Healthy meals and snacks

Studies show students who eat a healthy breakfast have better concentration and more energy. Don’t forget that many students qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school. 

When packing meals and snacks, be mindful of sugar. Drinking one 12-ounce regular cola — which contains 10 teaspoons of sugar — every day, increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose water instead of soda or juice, and check food labels carefully, as sugar is lurking in many prepackaged foods.

Plan for after-school care

Young children need supervision after school, whether that’s a family member, babysitter or after-school program. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 11 and 12 do not come home to an empty house after school, unless they are exceptionally mature for their age.

Set good study habits

Instead of squeezing homework in between sports and other activities, build study time into your child’s schedule when choosing extracurricular activities. Create a quiet work environment, and keep the television and electronic devices turned off. Be available to answer questions, and offer help, while letting your child take ownership of their work. 

If certain subjects are difficult, talk with your child’s teacher for ideas on how to help, and consider using a tutor. Don’t worry if your child needs help remembering and organizing their assignments. A little adult supervision, along with checklists and timers, can help make homework easier.

Stay positive

Frame the start of school in a positive way. Remind your child how fun it will be to see old friends while meeting new ones, and talk about good experiences they had at school the year before. With a little preparation, this school year may just be the best one yet.

These tips were compiled using resources from the American Academy for Pediatricians. For more information, visit

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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