As the summer break winds down, parents and caregivers in Miami-Dade are readying kids for a return to the classroom. Before they get there, however, it’s essential to ensure that children are emotionally, physically, and nutritionally ready for the academic journey ahead. It’s important for parents to develop a Back-to-School Checklist that will help them cover all the aspects to set their children up for a successful school year.
1. Take Care of the Basics
Where is your child going to school? It’s a fairly basic question, but the first that needs to be asked, followed by making sure they are registered in that school. For questions about enrollment at Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), visit attendanceservices.dadeschools.net.
How are they getting to and from school? Check dot.dadeschools.net for school bus information and routes, including for children with special needs, or make arrangements with private transportation. Make sure to visit M-DCPS’s Parent Academy for more information about schools and the upcoming school year at ParentAcademyMiami.com..
2. Emotionally Prepared
Now that the basics are covered, it’s time to focus on your child’s other needs. A new school year comes with equal parts excitement and jitters for many kids. Have conversations about their expectations and emotions regarding school and encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns. Let them know it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions.
Emphasize the positive and remind them about all the possibilities: field trips, friends, all the new things they will learn in the classroom, hallways and PE field. Let them know you are there to support them every step of the way.
3. Physically Prepared
Making sure your kids are physically prepared for school is vital to their overall well-being. Schedule a check-up with their pediatrician before classes start to ensure they are ready. Double-check which vaccinations your child will need based on their grade level at www.floridahealth.gov, search for “School Immunization Requirements.”
If they do need vaccinations, there are plenty of free options including The Children’s Trust-sponsored UHealth Pediatric Mobile Clinic, which visits different neighborhoods, community centers and churches. Visit umiamihealth.org and search for “UHealth Pediatric Mobile Clinic Monthly Schedule” or call 305-243-6407.
4. Nutritionally Prepared
A healthy balanced diet plays a significant role in your child’s academic performance and overall health. The good news is that free breakfast and lunch will be provided at all public schools in Miami-Dade again this year. If you’re packing your child’s lunch, make sure to include healthy snacks and remind them to resist the temptation to trade them away during lunch for sweets.
5. After-School Programs
Just as important as what happens at school during the school day is what happens after school. After-school programs can be enriching for your child’s personal growth and provide a safe space for them to work on homework, play sports, and interact with other kids.
Consider enrolling them in activities that align with their interests and passions. Whether it’s joining a sports team, engaging in arts and crafts, or participating in academic clubs, these programs can foster social skills, build self-confidence, and provide a safe and supervised environment while parents are at work.
Don’t know where to find the program that works for you and your children? A new partnership between The Children’s Trust, M-DCPS and Miami-Dade County is helping parents find the after-school program that works best for them by listing hundreds of them in one place: 211miami.org/afterschool. You can also call 211 for more information.
When you’ve completed your own Back-to-School Checklist you and your children will be able to face a return to school with excitement instead of anxiety. Remember, being involved in your child’s educational journey and giving them a nurturing environment are the best way to help their development, growth and learning.
Tatiana Canelas is an associate director of programs at The Children’s Trust. Her portfolio includes programs, continuous quality and learning improvement efforts, and The Children’s Trust’s Youth Development 6-12 grades initiative.