School bullying

Parents should react quickly to signs of bullying. (Getty Images)

Emergencies can include natural disasters and a police-ordered lockdown.

Schools should have "a plan in place, that's usually created by a team," Duff says. (The state of California requires that all public schools [K-12] operated by a school district have such a plan. ) Parents can find out more by speaking to school administrators.

Don't worry:

Head lice

Few ailments make parents more squeamish than the idea of tiny bugs crawling around on the scalps of their children. And they're not uncommon; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6 million to 12 million children ages 3 to 11 get head lice each year.

"It's a nuisance, it disrupts family and life, kids can't go to school, and it's [an] economic" difficulty, says Risa Barash, the owner of Fairy Tale Hair Care, a line specializing in lice products.

But head lice are easily treatable and don't cause permanent damage.

Barash suggests that children avoid sharing hats and combs, or having head-to-head contact with other kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises parents to do regular head checks on their children, particularly if they have attended a sleepover or camp.


A bad grade

Every now and then, kids with normally good grades get a low mark from a strict teacher. Parents might be inclined to become frantic when that happens, says Mihalas, but the best response to a single bad grade is to remain calm and demonstrate how the child might work through the situation.

"One bad grade on a test is not a big deal," she says. "If the parent shows that they're hysterical," it sets a bad example for the child.


Incontinence

It's fairly common for young children to have accidents at school, but, Duff says, "it generally happens for reasons unrelated to health issues."

Most teachers and school staff are trained to handle an incident discreetly, and the best thing a parent can do is send his or her child to school with a change of clothes in their backpack.


First-day jitters

Many parents dread the first day of school, not because they have to say goodbye to their precious charges, but because the possibility exists that kids will become upset.

This, says Duff, is not necessarily a reason to become concerned.

Parents can minimize back-to-school jitters by bringing their child to the school before the first day to walk around and get a sense of the environment. Some schools also have meet-the-teacher nights, where parents and kids can get to know their new instructors.

health@latimes.com

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