Preparing Your Child For The Fall

Written by Richard Lander, MD

Fall is fast approaching; the leaves are beginning to change colors, vacations are behind us, and our bathing suits are put away with the suntan lotion. We no longer have to worry about swimmer’s ear and sunburn and the children are back in school. So now we have nothing to worry about, right?

Ah but fall brings its own worries. In early fall we can have and Indian Summer so children playing sports have to think about not getting a sunburn. They also have to remember to drink plenty of fluids so as not to dehydrate. It is important to make sure that all sports equipment is in good shape and review the rules of the sport being played. Warming up and stretching before a practice or a game is a good idea.

Fall is a time of year when there is work to be done around the house. After raking those leaves, don’t leave the rake lying on the ground. Where somebody can trip, fall or be impaled. If you are doing work on your roof or putting up storm windows, replace ladders in the garage; never leave them standing against the house.

Many children are riding their bicycles to school so this is a good time to review road safety. Remind children to look both ways before crossing the street and always wear a helmet. Parents, be sure that bicycles are in good working order. For those who walk to school, never accept a ride from an unauthorized person. To avoid uncertainty regarding who is a stranger, arrange a pass word to be used if Mom or Dad are not picking up your child. Never go with anyone who does not give the correct password. For those students who will be driving to school for the first time, remind them of the rules of the road, and the importance of defensive driving. Of course, seat belts should be worn by all passengers in the car.

Back to school can be a trying time for some. The little ones might experience some separation anxiety at first. Give an extra hug and reassure you will see him/her after school. Many middle schoolers will be coming home with more homework than they did in grammar school. Help them organize their time and work with them on study skills. High schoolers have their own issues. Some mid-adolescents are starting to feel their oats. Their friends become their primary company; they are all knowing and you parents know nothing. Give your adolescent some space but be present and involved in their lives. Give yourself permission to question where they are going, with whom they are going and tell them when to be home. They won’t admit it even to themselves but they both need and want limits. Be supportive, offer advice but don’t force it and always remember your child has friends; you be his/her parent.

For senior high school students, this is a very anxiety producing time of life. The future is so uncertain. Your student is wrestling with where he/she will be going to college, will he/she make varsity this year, will he/she have a date for prom? Don’t ask too many questions but be available. The family dinner table can present a perfect opportunity for sharing.

Dr. Lander has been practicing pediatrics for 32 years in New Jersey and is the immediate past chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Administration and Practice Management.  He says if he had to do it all over again he wouldn’t hesitate to be a pediatrician.

Photo Credit: Svetlana Hanina