The Transition from High School to College

Academically, the step up from high school to college isn’t as steep as previous transitions may have been. Unless a student takes on an unusually heavy course load, the demands aren’t markedly different from before.

What is different, and what can trip up first-year students, is the atmosphere in which learning and studying take place. College affords young people a level of autonomy they’ve never experienced before. And if they’re attending a college away from home, they don’t have Mom and Dad standing sentinel outside their bedroom door to order them back inside to study for tomorrow’s midterm exam. Most students have the self-discipline to make the adjustment without too much difficulty, but others get swept up in the social whirl of college life.

“We see it here at the University of North Carolina,” says Dr. William Lord Coleman, an associate professor of pediatrics at UNC’s School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. “Kids go downhill or drop out because they can’t get organized enough to forget about the beer-keg party on a Sunday afternoon and go to the library like they’re supposed to.”

Colleges, recognizing the potential perils of youngsters living on their own for the first time, usually insist that new undergrads spend their first year or two living in the residential halls. A 1998 study from the Harvard School of Public Health painted a disturbing portrait of alcohol abuse among U.S. college students. Forty-two percent were found to indulge in binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five drinks in one sitting for men, and four drinks for women.

By far, the highest rate of excessive drinking was among fraternity and sorority members: a staggering 84 percent. The second highest rate, 54 percent, was among school athletes. Third highest were students living in coed dorms: 52 percent. Interestingly, the rate of binge drinking among students living in off-campus housing or in single-sex dorms was lower than the overall average: 40 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

You might want to consider steering an impressionable youngster away from schools with reputations for heavy partying. Believe it or not, every year the Princeton Review ranks the top ten party colleges in the United States, based on surveys distributed to hundreds of thousands of students.

Monitoring College Students From A Distance

Short of secretly taking up residence in an adjacent dorm room, what can parents do to keep tabs on a son or daughter living away from home? Dr. Coleman recommends “the age-old wisdoms: Call regularly, encourage visits home whenever possible and visit your youngster more frequently than just on Parents’ Day. Also, if you can, get to know the parents of the roommate or suite mates. If necessary, you can do a little networking together behind the scenes.”

If you suspect that your youngster is having difficulty adapting to college (homesickness, for example, is common among students living away from home for the first time), encourage him to speak to a counselor at the student health service. If you’re truly worried about his welfare, make the call yourself and ask one of the mental-health professionals there to pay a visit to your youngster or invite him down to talk.


Source: Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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BACK TO SCHOOL: Traveling To & From School

Review the basic rules with your student and practice any new routes or modes of transportation:

School Bus

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required. Encourage your child to actually practice how to cross the street several times prior to the first day of school.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts).
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus. Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with allergy and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan, if possibly, prior to the first day of class

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations even when using hands-free devices or speakerphone, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction.. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process.

Bike

  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If the route home requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them home.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Back to School Tips

Making the First Day Easier

  • Parents should remember that they need not wait until the first day of class to ask for help. Schools are open to address any concerns a parent or child might have, including the specific needs of a child, over the summer. The best time to get help might be one to two weeks before school opens.
  • Many children become nervous about new situations, including changing to a new school, classroom or teacher. This may occur at any age. If your child seems nervous, it can be helpful to rehearse entry into the new situation. Take them to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school. Remind them that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. If your child seems nervous, ask them what they are worried about and help them problem solve ways to master the new situation.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create positive anticipation about the first day of class. They will see old friends and meet new ones. Talk with them about positive experiences they may have had in the past at school or with other groups of children.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day. Bring the child to school a few days prior to class to play on the playground and get comfortable in the new environment.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day, and get there early on the first day to cut down on unnecessary stress.
  • Make sure to touch base with your child’s new teacher at the beginning or end of the day so the teacher knows how much you want to be supportive of your child’s school experience.
  • Consider starting your child on their school sleep/wake schedule a week or so ahead of time so that time change is not a factor on their first couple of days at school.

Eating During the School Day

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if yours does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein
  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced price food at school, including breakfast. The forms for these services can be completed at the school office. Hunger will affect a child’s performance in class.
  • Many school districts have plans which allow you to pay for meals through an online account. Your child will get a card to “swipe” at the register. This is a convenient way to handle school meal accounts.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100% fruit juice. Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect. Also, consider nutrition if you child will be bringing food to eat during school.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Before & After School Child Care

  • During early and middle childhood, children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding schedules, discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose an after-school program for your child, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, trained persons to address health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Develop a Sleep Routine

  • Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can.
  • Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Having a bedtime routine that is consistent will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Components of a calming pre-bedtime routine may involve a bath/shower, reading with them, and tucking them in and saying good-night to them.
  • Have your child turn off electronic devices well before bedtime.
  • Try to have the home as quiet and calm as possible when younger children are trying to fall asleep.
  • Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is 10-12 hours per night and for adolescents (13-18 year of age) is in the range of 8-10 hours per night. See Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? for more information.

Developing Good Homework & Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; build this time into choices about participation in after school activities.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • For general homework problems that cannot be worked out with the teacher, a tutor may be considered.
  • Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments – such as an assignment notebook.

From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).


First Day of School Checklist

As you and your child prepare for the first day of the new school year, use this checklist to help make sure you have taken care of the necessary tasks and learned the information you need.

  • Is your child registered? (If he attended the same school the previous school year, he is already registered.
  • When is the first day of school?
  • What time does school start?
  • How is your child going to get to school? If your child is biking, does he know the school rules for bicycles? If he is walking for the first time, with whom will he walk? Have you reviewed safety precautions with him, regarding traffic and strangers?
  • Does your child know his teacher’s name?
  • What will his daily schedule be like?
  • Will he need to bring a snack? What kinds of snacks are allowed and encouraged? Does he need to bring something to drink, or can he buy something? Will water be available?
  • What time is lunch? Can your child buy it at school, and how much will it cost?
  • What clothes will your child need to wear? Are there any re­strictions on what can be worn? Will he need a different set of clothes for physical education or art classes?
  • Does your child need to bring pencils, paper, notebooks, and other supplies? (Often, the teacher will announce these require­ments on the first day.) Does your child have something in which to carry his books and supplies back and forth to school? Will he have a place (besides his desk) to keep his things at school?
  • Have you filled out all health forms or emergency contact forms that have been sent home?
  • Have any new health problems developed in your child over the summer that will affect his school day? Does the school nurse know about this condition, or is an appointment set up to discuss it?
  • If your child will need to take medication at school on the first day, have arrangements been made for this?
  • Does your youngster know where he is going after school (e.g., home, babysitter)? Does he know how he will get there? If you will not be there when he arrives, does he know who will be re­sponsible for him, what the rules are, and how to get help in an emergency?
  • Does your child have your work telephone numbers in his backpack?

Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


School Lunches: You Can Make a Difference

Meal planning for schools is a complicated process. Menus have to allow for a wide range of tastes and restrictions. Budgets are limited. Foods that are available at lowest cost and require the least preparation are often high in fat, sugar, and salt.

According to the School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children set up in 1996, school lunch menus backed by federal subsidies must conform to the current guidelines for health. When it comes to fat, this means that meals may contain no more than 30% of total calories from fat and no more than 10% from saturated fat.

National School Lunch Program: School Requirements for Menu Improvement

It also means that schools taking part in the National School Lunch Program have been required to take the following practical steps to improve menus:

  • Adding more fruits, vegetables, and grains to menus
  • Balancing menus by using foods from each of the 5 groups
  • Reducing overall fat content by serving more vegetarian main courses, less beef and pork, and fewer fried foods
  • Varying menus by serving more ethnic dishes, such as pasta and tacos

Team Nutrition

To back up efforts at the lunchroom level, the US Department of Agriculture set up Team Nutrition, a program to improve children’s eating habits and raise their awareness about the links between food and health. Team Nutrition’s goal is to improve children’s lifelong eating and physical activity habits by using the principles of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This plan involves schools, parents, and the community in efforts to continuously improve school meals, and to promote the health and education of 50 million schoolchildren in more than 96,000 schools nationwide.

How to Get Involved & Make Your Child’s School Healthier

There’s also a push at the state and local levels to help children eat better. In many communities, children at grade-school level are learning not only how to cook food but also how to grow a variety of produce. Courses combine food production and preparation with valuable lessons about history, economics, social science, and math.

If you’re not satisfied with the choices available in your child’s school cafeteria, get involved in your school’s parent-teacher organization and brainstorm some healthful alternatives, as parents and teachers all over the country are doing.

Even if you haven’t the time or resources to revamp the school cafeteria, you may be able to see that the salad bar offers a good selection of raw vegetables and low-fat dressings. Vending machine choices can also be modified to eliminate high-fat and empty-calorie munchies and provide healthy snacks that include more fresh fruit and low-fat dairy products, as well as water and 100% fruit juice instead of sodas.

Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices in the vending machines. Although school administrators fear that they will lose money if they make these changes, schools that have provided healthier options have not lost money or have seen their revenue increase. ​


Source: Bright Futures: Nutrition, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Back to School, Back to the Doctor

backtodoctor

No matter what grade your child is about to enter, there’s the yearly back-to-school checklist of to-dos:

  • Shopping for school supplies
  • Filling out permission forms
  • Scheduling your child’s yearly pediatric well-child visit

While it may not seem as urgent, a yearly physical exam by your family’s pediatrician is an important part of your child’s health care. The back-to-school season is a convenient time for putting the exam on your family’s schedule.

Your Patient-Centered Medical Home
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates that every child and youth receive care through a patient-centered medical home. Within the medical home, care is provided continuously over a long period of time so that as a child ages and develops, his or her care is never interrupted.

Adolescence, for example, is a time when vital changes are taking place. It is important to have your child see the pediatrician during the transition years from later childhood to puberty.

The annual pediatric exam also offers the doctor time to provide wellness guidance and advice. In addition to monitoring heart and blood pressure and testing for diabetes, pediatricians can use this annual visit with your child to discuss diet, exercise options, pediatric vision screenings, and testing for cholesterol and anemia.

Building a Medical History
The continuity of regular physical exams is invaluable. Having a long-term history with a child or adolescent gives the doctor the awareness of the child’s progress and development over time. This helps the doctor detect emerging problems, as well as being informed by the detail of the patient’s history, such as important past illnesses or injuries the child may forget to mention on the sports physical questionnaire.

That detail includes immunization records. A school entry form will generally include a check box asking whether all vaccinations are up-to-date, requiring the parents to remember whether or not they are. The family pediatrician will have accurate records to assist you in filling out these forms.

Examining the Young Athlete
The doctor’s annual exam of a young athlete should be similar to one for any other child but most pediatricians will also address some sports-specific issues, including injuries, nutrition, training and exercise programs, and even attitudes in the course of the exam.

The other side of the exercise issue is the student athlete who is already involved in an exercise and training program. Overuse and overtraining injuries continue to be huge problems.

The Need for a Thorough Physical Exam (beyond a sports-specific exam)
Back-to-school check-ups, as they are commonly called, are often the only visit most kids and teenagers have with their pediatrician every year. The annual physical gives the pediatrician a chance to give the child a thorough physical exam and address any emotional, developmental, or social concerns. It is also a good chance to address important questions, especially with teenagers, including adolescent issues of drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual activity, and depression.

Children involved in school athletic programs often receive a sports-specific exam through the school. The time frame for getting this exam should be at least 6 weeks prior to the start of the sport’s season. This allows ample time to work up any new health concerns or rehab any lingering injuries before the season starts, without delaying clearance of the athlete. However, school sports physicals alone tend not to address the child’s overall health.

Getting the Balance Right
A healthy childhood and adolescence calls for balancing home life, school, social activities, sports, and extracurricular pursuits. This is not easy, especially during a time when the child is passing through the years of growth, learning, exploration, and emotional and physical development. This is all the more reason to set aside one day during each of those years for your child to see the pediatrician.


Adapted from Healthy Children E-Magazine, Back to School 2012. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Back-to-School 101: Traveling to School

travelingtoschool

School Bus

  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts).
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.

 

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, click here.

 

Bike

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

 

Walking to School

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

 


From healthychildren.org.


Back-to-School 101: The First Day

firstday

Making the First Day Easier

The following health and safety tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school. She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.