Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pediatrician’s Back to School Checklist

By Bianca Calderon, MD, FAAP
Attending Physician in Pediatrics, Comprehensive Health Care Center, Montefiore Medical Group
Instructor, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine 

NEW YORK- As summer winds down, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your children for the new school year. 

As a pediatrician at Montefiore’s Comprehensive Health Care Center, I have seen quite a few children go through this transition year after year. To make the back-to-school transition as smooth as possible, here is my recommended checklist for parents: 


Make sure that your child is up to date with their annual physical. 

If you do not remember when your child last had a physical, you can always call your pediatrician’s office and ask. 

Make sure that your child is up to date with their vaccinations. 

You can refer to the CDC website for the recommended vaccine schedule:

You can find the medical and vaccine requirements for New York City schools here:

And don’t forget about the flu shot! 

Most pediatric offices should be carrying the influenza vaccine by early September. 

Make sure to call your pediatrician’s office to find out when they will have the flu shot and what their policy is for coming in to get the shot (ask whether you need an appointment or if you can just walk in). 

For the 2018-2019 school year, all children aged 6 months through 59 months who attend a New York City regulated childcare program must receive the flu shot by December 31st. 

A lot of children have anxiety about the first day of school, especially if they are entering a new school. To help offset this anxiety, you can: 

Talk through what the new school year will be like with your child. 

For elementary school students, you can tell them their teacher’s name and go through any information/expectations the teacher has told you beforehand. 

For middle school and high school students, go through their schedule with them. 

For those attending a new school in the fall, in order to help your child feel more comfortable with the transition, make sure that both you and your child take a tour of the new school and go to orientation. 


Start having your children adjust back to the school sleep and wake schedule a few days to a week before school starts. 

That way, their bodies will already be accustomed to this schedule on the first day of school. 

Remember: younger children generally require 10-12 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep each night.


Make sure that you have a safe plan for how your child is going to get to school and how they are going to get home after school. 

If your child needs any special accommodations for travel, make sure to set this up with the school before the school year starts. 


If your child will be walking to school, make sure that it is a safe and well-lit route. 

Make sure that you or another trusted adult has practiced the route with them before the first day of school. 

If possible, find out if other neighborhood children will be going to the same school so that the children can walk together. 

Remind your children not to talk to strangers. 

Make sure that your child is always wearing a helmet when they are riding their bike.


Make sure your child knows to look both ways before crossing the street. 

Make sure your child does not try to board the bus until the bus has come to a complete stop. 

Make sure your child wears the lap strap or seatbelt (if the bus has these devices). 


Make sure that everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt. 

If your teenager will be driving themselves to school, remind them not to use their cellphones while driving and to always be fully focused on the road. 

Back pain due to a heavy backpack is a common complaint. 

In order to avoid this complaint: 

Make sure that your child uses both straps when wearing their backpack.

Choose the right sized backpack. You should be able to adjust the straps so that the bottom of the backpack is near the level of your child’s waist. 


If your child is entering middle school or high school, you should have a frank conversation with them about smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex (including contraception and sexually transmitted infections), and romantic relationships. 


Find out if your child’s school provides breakfast. If the school does not provide breakfast, make sure that your child has breakfast before school each day. 

Children who eat breakfast have more energy, focus better, and have improved school performance.

If you want more information on preparing for the new school year, you can check out the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website for parents:

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