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Preparing children for a new year of day-care or school can be difficult for parents. Tasks can range from registering for school, to buying supplies, to helping children overcome the anxiety that often accompanies a new experience.
The beginning of the school year also provides an opportunity for parents to review a child's progress in many areas and provide some important health and safety reminders.
Following is a list of some things parents can do for children of all ages throughout the year, but especially when school begins
In addition to making sure children are immunized against childhood diseases, parents should also make sure that a child's growth in both height and weight progresses normally. The average child grows 10 inches in the first year, and 2-2 1/2 inches each year from ages 2-10. Growth outside this range could reflect normal variations, but it might also indicate a growth problem. While many growth disorders are treatable, early detection is important. If you think :your child might have a growth disorder, see your doctor.
While you might prepare nutritious meals at home, make sure that healthy foods are also available for your children at school. Teach them the importance of good eating habits, because poor nutrition (overeating or nutritional deficiencies) can affect a child's weight, and general health.
Teachers and other adults sometimes treat smaller children as if they are younger than their age. In addition, there is a tendency to dress smaller children in clothing that makes them appear younger. Parents should work to make sure children are dressed and treated in a manner suited to their age and maturity.
While at school, a child is likely to encounter many different types children and adults. Teaching acceptance and tolerance should begin before school starts to help children feel comfortable meeting people who are racially, ethnically or physically different from themselves. Many books and home-use guides are available to help parents teach children to be tolerant. Role-playing with children is also an excellent way to help them learn acceptance.
Children feel safest in family surroundings where they physically comfortable. You and your child should visit school together. Pay special attention to bathrooms, playground areas and gyms, blackboards, water fountains, desks, chairs and lockers, to make sure that they are easily accessible to your child.
Children learn a great deal from their classmates. Try to meet your child's school friends. Invite them to visit your home periodically to observe their play habits and interactions.
Encourage your child to take part in sports and other activities that offer opportunities for constructive competition. Suggest that your child try many different activities to find those that provide the greatest satisfaction. Remember that your support and encouragement will be important.
If you think your child is having trouble coping physically or emotionally, talk with a counselor, health care provider or psychologist. Taking action early may help keep small problems from turning into big ones.
For more information about childhood growth disorders, consult your doctor or call the Human Growth Foundation at 1-800-451-6434.
Patricia Rieser, EN.P.-C., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
David E. Sandberg, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Children's Hospital of Buffalo
Louis Underwood, M.D., Department of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill