It’s almost that time of year! The glorious sound of school bells ringing, kids laughing and chattering, reconnecting with friends, reminiscing on summer fun and shopping for first-day-of-school outfits!
With a new year of learning also comes new health needs: vaccinations, checkups and addressing first-day jitters, not to mention an earlier bedtime. After loading up on notebooks, pencils, agendas and snacks, be sure to take the following steps for your children’s health before school starts:
Around 50% of parents bring their children in for an eye exam with any regularity, but kids’ vision issues can be difficult to detect. Be on the lookout for signs like headaches, squinting or sitting too close to the TV. If they’re experiencing vision issues, they may rub their eyes often, lose their place while reading and close one eye while focusing their vision. Behavioral and attention issues at school can be related to eyesight as well. Even if you’ve taken your child to the optometrist before, their vision can change, so be sure to book an appointment before the school year starts. Your kids will have a much more fulfilling year if they’re able to see the whiteboard!
Though requirements vary by state, your child should be vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella, varicella and mumps over the course of their education. Our pediatrics page features a comprehensive vaccine schedule. Additionally, ensure everyone in your family over 6 months old is vaccinated for the flu before peak season, beginning in October. New to this school year? Children under 5 can finally receive a COVID vaccine. Ask your doctor about up-to-date vaccinations at your child’s next checkup, and know that many health departments offer vaccinations for free.
If your child plays sports, make sure they’re scheduled for a pre-participation physical examination. More comprehensive than an annual wellness checkup, sports physicals check your kids’ readiness to participate in various forms of activity. At these appointments, your doctor will check their heart, lungs, muscles and bones for any potential concerns. Schedule a physical at least six weeks before the season starts so you can follow up on health issues your doctor may flag during the appointment.
In case of emergency, your child’s school will need to have medication schedules and any other relevant health information on file. If your child takes medication during school hours, you’ll likely need authorization from their healthcare provider before dropping it by the nurse’s office. Discuss health needs with your student’s teacher as well, especially if you feel they will affect learning in any way. Along these lines, develop a backup plan for if kids experience any health issues at school. Ensure they’re comfortable with any alternate caregivers and that you have a clear line of communication to the school office.
After a summer of sleeping in, your kids will likely be in need of a bedtime reset. Plan ahead, as elementary schoolers typically need 10 hours of sleep a night and teenagers need between 9-10. To prepare for earlier school mornings, put your kids to bed about 5-10 minutes earlier each night before you reach your target bedtime. Encourage your kids to get high-quality rest by ensuring they’re active during the day, developing a calming bedtime routine. They’ll also sleep more soundly if they don’t have sugar or caffeine close to bedtime. Reconsider any late afternoon naps and remove blue-light screen devices from their rooms. Better sleep means better focus at school and better stress management.
Your kids may not show it, but they’re likely nervous about their first day at a new school or in a new grade. Ease their anxiety by establishing predictable routines and sharing stories about your own experiences at school. Pack their backpack and choose their first-day outfit the night before. For younger kids or those with separation anxiety, plan out your goodbye routine, showing calm and reassurance and keeping it short, as longer partings can make kids more anxious. Practice leaving your children with trusted caregivers for short periods so spending time apart at school feels more natural.
Your kid’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10-15% of their body weight to reduce the chance of back pain and injury. Their backpack should have two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back, with the straps adjusted to a snug fit at the shoulders.
Kids entering the classroom for the first time or returning from a long period of virtual learning have adjustments to make. They may be new to reading emotions on masked faces or settling into routines out of the home setting. The best way to deal with any anxieties is to discuss them with your child and reassure them regarding their safety at school. Teach them illness prevention methods like handwashing and vampire coughs – of course, these work not only to prevent COVID, but colds and other illnesses as well. However, know that behavioral issues may be more common, especially for kids who experienced important growth milestones during quarantine-heavy periods since 2020. You may also need to screen for learning disabilities or special needs that your children may need accommodations for.
For assistance with your children’s back-to-school health needs, reach out to Riverside Medical Clinic’s pediatrics team at any of our locations.