4. Get a complete eye exam if a child doesn't want to read. Parents often think of ADHD, learning disabilities, or a bad attitude if a child complains of hating to read. But ophthalmologists say undiagnosed vision problems can make schoolwork painful. While children who are nearsighted struggle to read the board, farsighted children can have trouble reading books and computer screens. Reading issues are one clue that a complete eye exam may be in order.
5. Make time for children to play with friends. At this time of year, parents start signing children up for sports and after-school activities, to the point where some children have schedules as complex as a CEO's. That's a mistake, psychologists say, because children learn crucial social skills through unstructured play. Children should have one-on-one play dates several times a week, for meetups that don't involve movies or video games, according to Fred Frankel, a psychologist and author of the new book Friends Forever: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Make and Keep Good Friends, (Jossey-Bass, $14.95). And children who have more time to play do better academically, according to psychiatrist Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (Avery, $24.95).
Moms and Dads have more than enough on their plates, but each of these recommendations could also be applied to parents, with happy results. Why not get a tetanus booster, too, take a break from the BlackBerry, and set aside an hour each day to really be with your kids? Parents may not realize it, but research shows their example is powerful, even with seemingly oblivious teens. Here's to a healthy start to the school year!