WESTPORT, Conn. -- The first few weeks of school can be exciting for students as they work back into their routine. However, Dr. Deborah Mogelof of Westport Urgent Care believes parents should monitor their children early and often at the start of the school year for physical and emotional health concerns.
Daily Voice asked Dr. Mogelof about some of the health risks parents should be particularly mindful of at this time of year. Read on to learn more.
Particularly for first-year students and younger kids, what are safety issues that parents should monitor? What should parents be telling younger students about school safety?
The major safety issues for younger kids include bus safety, playground/sports safety, and bullying. It's important that parents watch that kids are safely and correctly crossing the street. Unfortunately not all drivers yield to bus stop signs. Children older than kindergarten can get off the bus on their own, without an adult waiting for them. Parents should review with their children how to get off the bus and get home safely so they will be confident and independent in any situation. Parents should also review with the younger kids the importance of staying seated while the bus is moving.
Obesity is another big issue among children and it's great for them to have recess and play sports to keep them active. Parents should talk to their kids about staying safe on the playground and not engaging in risky behaviors that can lead to injury.
Unfortunately, bullying also starts at an early age. Children who are bullied have a higher risk of depression and other emotional problems and it can affect their learning. As parents, we need to talk to our children about kindness to others and helping others who we think are being bullied.
For parents of middle schoolers and teenagers, what are the biggest concerns?
Again, one big concern now is bullying, especially cyber bullying involving older children. Parents need to monitor their children's use of social media on their phones and computers and their use of texting. Signs that a child is being bullied include apathy towards school, drug use and other risky behaviors, and disrespect towards teachers and other authority figures. If there is any concern, parents should involve the school and talk to their children.
Another concern with older kids is abuse (sexual, verbal, and physical) from significant others. Parents need to make their children aware of these issues and have open dialogues with them.
For students of all ages, what are some things that parents should be looking for during the first few weeks of school as far as safety and the emotional health of their children?
Recurrent complaints of stomachaches and other excuses to avoid school should trigger an alarm that a child is having an underlying issue. Some issues that can cause a child to be unwilling to go to school include having a social issue like being bullied or having learning difficulties. I suggest parents talk to their kids if they think that something else is going on and also discuss this with their children's teachers, school social workers and psychologists.
For kindergarten students who are transitioning from pre-school or coming to school for the first time, how can parents help their children make that transition both physically and mentally?
It's important that kindergarteners know that it's ok to be nervous and that the teachers and school authorities are there to help them. Get your kids talking about school by asking them specific questions like their favorite part of the day and who they sat with at lunch. If there are concerns about how your child is transitioning, never hesitate to talk to the teacher.