New School Year: Tips for Parents
Specialists at Schneider Children’s offer tips to parents in anticipation of the new academic year: how to readjust children’s habits to a new daily routine; improve the learning experience in school; instructions about road safety; and what kind of foods are best for the child to take to school.
Deganit Ben-Nissan, chief psychologist in the Institute for Child Development and Rehabilitation at Schneider Children’s, notes that during the summer vacation, many children change their daily habits and sleep routines. During the last days of vacation, efforts should be made to adapt the child gradually to normal sleeping hours. Activities such as buying equipment and organizing the schoolbag help the child to process the transition from holiday to study while preparing him emotionally. Preparations for school should be done jointly signalling the end of vacation and the return to school. Children should be encouraged to voice their feelings regarding going back to school and parents should relate to this accordingly.
Hila Argentro, Director of the Learning Disabilities Clinic in the Department of Psychological Medicine at Schneider Children’s, notes that the sense of belonging to a school plays a significant role in proper study functioning and coping with difficulties, especially learning disabilities. It is important to pay attention to the experiences with which the child returns to school, his mood, his social circle and whether he feels that there are educational figures with whom he feels comfortable and admires. Should any one of these factors be negative, the school should be contacted and efforts made to improve the experience and the child’s sense of identification with the school. Early intervention - as close as possible to the beginning of the year - can prevent more complicated problems in the future and can greatly improve the child’s learning ability.
Prof. Yehezkel Waisman, Director of the Emergency Medicine Department at Schneider Children’s, notes that many children are injured on their way to and from school. Therefore, children under the age of 9 must be accompanied when crossing the road and ensure they stop at the edge of the sidewalk, look properly in both directions before crossing and only then cross the road. Children should also be instructed not to cross the road between parked cars or behind a bus, and not to play with a ball near the street. Schoolbags should not be heavy and weigh more than 15% of the child’s weight. During the first weeks of school, particular care must be taken to ensure that the child is protected from the sun, and drinks enough water to prevent dehydration.
Dafna Ziv Busani, a dietician in the Nutrition and Dietary Unit at Schneider Children’s, also recommends paying attention to nutrition in anticipation of the return to school:
Breakfast is an important and essential meal for children, which improves their ability to concentrate and promotes greater alertness throughout the school day. It is best to serve a sandwich with cheese or other spread such as techina. If there is no time, a bag with sliced fruit and yoghurt can be eaten on the way.
Breakfast or a 10 o'clock snack prepared at home for children is preferable to them buying something.
It is highly recommended to prepare a “sandwich schedule” for each day of the week together with the child to pre-determine which sandwich the child will eat each day. Once a week, the sandwich could have a sweet spread like chocolate, jam or halva spread, while fillings for other days should be light yellow cheese, white or cottage cheese or hummus.
Children should habitually take a green vegetable or fruit with the sandwich which can be sliced and put in a separate container or placed between lettuce leaves so as not to dampen the sandwich.
Attention must be paid to drinking water throughout the school day. Drinking is essential as water is a vital component of our bodies (more than half). Water quenches thirst, is healthier for teeth, and contributes to children’s level of alertness.
Children should eat lunch at the table and not opposite the TV or computer. Meals should include a protein such as meatballs, schnitzel, fish patties or a soy meat substitute for vegetarians, which should be served with legumes such as hummus, beans, lentils and chickpeas together with grains such as rice and corn. Quinoa could also be added as part of the daily portion of grains. It is important also to serve cooked vegetables or a green salad with a carbohydrate such as pasta or potato.
After-school activities should include sport such as basketball or gym. Physical exercise is essential from the standpoint of both health and self-confidence and increases the child’s sense of accomplishment.