Preparing a child’s body and mind for 1st day at school

Remind children about meeting old friends, making new ones; tell your six-year-old she is not the first to feel nervous or excited.

First grade school children kids class 311 (photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)
First grade school children kids class 311
(photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)
With little more than a week remaining until school begins on September 1, children and teens should already begin to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for class to begin.
For the majority who have gone to sleep late – even not long before sunrise – and awakened after noon, the time has come to re-set their biological clocks.
Experts at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot offered ideas to help children – and their parents – cope with the return to normalcy and for first-graders to take their first day of school as easy as possible.
Tell your six-year-old she is not the first to feel nervous or excited about going to school for the first time. Teachers are aware of this and will make a special effort to make them feel comfortable.
Emphasize the positive aspects of the first day of class, meeting old friends and new ones. After the first day is over, remind the children they came back in a good mood and had fun. Try to find another child in your neighborhood who can accompany yours to school with you.
Make sure your child eats a good breakfast before leaving, as it is important to give energy and ensure concentration during the first part of the day. Studies have shown that children who have a nutritious meal, even a bowl of sugarless cereal with milk, a sandwich, energy bar, fruit or yogurt, do considerably better in their studies than those who come to school without first having eaten. Having breakfast also reduces the risk of eating junk food and obesity.
If you think your child wants to go accompanied to school, go with her. If there is organized transportation, prepare in advance on how your child will get there and give instructions not to cross the street alone. Seatbelts should always be fastened in a car, minibus or van.
Older children should be taught and reminded how to cross streets at crosswalks and to look both ways. Jerusalem children must be specially briefed on how to cope with the new light rail.
Schoolbags now must be suited to the needs, height and weight of the children.
A poorly fitted bag can cause chronic back and shoulder pains. Don’t let the bag hang more than 10 centimeters below the waist. The contents must not weigh more than 15 percent of a child’s weight. The backstraps must be padded and positioned properly so the child can walk erect. The back should also be padded, and sharp objects should be covered and not reach the child’s body. Anything that doesn’t need to be taken home should be stored in a locker or another place in class.
If food is not distributed in school, prepare nutritious and appetizing food to take along every day.
First graders must undergo eye exams before starting school, according to Education Ministry rules. But there are children who are not tested and have problems seeing the board, causing problems with their studies. Problems in copying from the board and unwillingness to read and write regularly may mask vision problems. Headaches may be another sign.
Older children who have access to the Internet should be taught not to provide any personal information to strangers.
Warn your children in the event of them being threatened or otherwise disturbed by others in class or outside. Explain how and when to seek help.
It is not recommended that children younger than nine or 10 return to an empty home. They still need supervision unless they are unusually responsible. If you have no choice, set a time when the child must call you by phone.
Every child must have a permanent place for doing homework that allows privacy and quiet. Set rules by which TV is turned off while doing lessons.
Make sure the child goes to sleep at an appropriate time so she can wake up in time to leave for school. Those aged three to six should sleep 11 to 12 hours daily; aged six to 12 need 10 to 11 hours; ages 12 through 18 need nine hours sleep a day.
If a teacher or parent suspects learning, hyperactivity or attention-deficit problems, discuss the issue and ask for referral to a specialist.
Teachers, too, have to prepare themselves for the school year, which can often result in hoarseness from calluses forming on the vocal cords. Frequent shouting, stress, smoking, allergies, throat infections and other problems requires teachers to consult with an otolaryngologist.
Teachers with large or unruly classes should use a microphone to reduce the burden of speaking. Eliminate all unnecessary background noises. Demand that air conditioners and fans do not operate noisily.