Kindergarten: For some kindergarteners, this may be the first time they are away from their parents for an extended period of time. It’s wise to teach your children what to do if they get lost, starting with knowing their phone number and home address. “I recommend setting their I-pad passcode as their phone number,” suggests Erica R. Pelletier, MD, a pediatrician with RVA Pediatrics in Richmond. “They will learn it in no time.”
1st Grade: Children in first grade may be experiencing lunch in the school cafeteria for the first time. Teach them how to make healthy food choices, including stacking their tray with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of sugary snacks. Children with food allergies should also be made aware of what foods they shouldn’t eat.
2nd Grade: As children start heading off to the bus stop on their own, remind them of school bus safety, including looking both ways before crossing a street, waiting until the bus comes to the complete stop before stepping off the curb, and remaining seated while the bus is in motion. Parents may also wish to reiterate avoiding talking to strangers.
3rd Grade: Routine becomes important as children get older. “Now is the time to start helping them learn good homework habits,” said Pelletier. Research shows that children who eat meals frequently with their parents perform better in school, so set aside time for that as well. “Family time is also important, so plan dinner together as a family, and turn off all devices and distractions,” Dr. Pelletier advises.
4th Grade: School bullying is often a concern. Parents should keep open communication with their child’s teacher. If your child starts complaining of headaches or bellyaches or simply not wanting to go to school, speak with your child’s teacher about what might be happening.
5th Grade: Students should not carry a bookbag that weighs more than ten to 15 percent of their body weight. Ensure your child wears his or her backpack correctly, with the weight of the bag evenly distributed across the body in order to avoid shoulder, neck, or back injuries.
6th Grade: Students become more involved in sports activities in middle school. For maximum performance, ensure your student athlete is up-to-date on any physical examinations; chooses the right team for his or her size, weight, and skill; uses safe equipment; and knows when his or her body has had enough and needs time to rest.
7th Grade: Social media safety may become a concern at this age. Moms and dads should routinely discuss what is and isn’t appropriate to text to friends or share online. “Our world is changing,” Dr. Pelletier point out. “Parents also shouldn’t wait until high school to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and sexual behavior. By then, it is too late. It may be uncomfortable to talk about, but you don’t want your children hearing about it from other kids in school.”
8th Grade: Assist children with the development of good homework and study habits, including organization. To alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue or brain fatigue during study sessions, take frequent breaks, and get up to stretch or have a snack.
9th Grade: Starting off the school day with proper nutrition is essential, but high schoolers often don’t make time for breakfast. “It is important to have breakfast, anything with protein, even if it’s just a breakfast bar,” Dr. Pelletier says.
10th Grade: Getting enough rest helps students concentrate and perform better during the school day. “Every child needs the proper amount of sleep,” says Dr. Pelletier. “That is very important. If they have that, they are ahead of the curve.” Children ages six to twelve need nine to twelve hours of sleep, while middle and high schoolers need eight to ten hours. Dr. Pelletier suggests starting a regular bedtime routine one to two weeks before the new school year begins, and turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
11th Grade: Teach new drivers to play it safe with the cell phone while they are in the car. “Take your phone and throw it in the backseat so you aren’t tempted or distracted,” says Dr. Pelletier. “You don’t want to be texting when you are driving.”
12th Grade: Kids this age still need plenty of physical activity. Encourage your child to find time during the day for exercise, whether it’s walking or biking to school, or trying an exercise video. Developing proper fitness habits now will set them up for life.