Staying Healthy & Safe During the Back-to-School Season
Last year was full of change, especially when it comes to kids and school. As we head back into another school year – live and in-person – it is more important than ever to prepare our children with the tools and strategies to stay healthy and well.
A health article from John Spitzer, pediatrician at Bronson Primary Care Partners
Many schools have made the decision to enforce masks at school. Others may still be making these important decisions. It’s important to remember that wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing hands often is the best way to avoid diseases like COVID-19 and the flu.
Aside from these safety precautions that have come to light due to the ongoing pandemic, there are several ways to help prepare your little one for school. Below are some ideas and tips to help you prepare for the new school year.
Preparing for the Big Day
- Meet your new teacher. A big question both children and parents have before school starts is “Will I like my [my child’s] teacher?” Many teachers make themselves available to parents by phone and/or email. Reach out! Use this opportunity to introduce yourself as a parent and discuss any special circumstances your child may deal with. This can include learning disabilities, food allergies, or any concerns you/your child may be feeling. With your child, take a look at the school website. Many websites have photos of staff, so you can show your son/daughter a picture of their teacher, so they know who to expect on the first day of school.
- Tour the school premises. Especially if your child is starting at a new school, you have likely already participated in a school tour or open house. This is a great way for your child to become familiar with the classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and main office. As we approach the first day of school, consider taking a walk to or a drive by the school. Seeing the building up close will help your child visualizing the space. If possible, have them walk around the playground or other open areas to help put them at ease.
- Connect with friends. Children may some anxiety leading up to the start of the school year is whether or not they will have a class with their friends. Before the first day or during the always-important first few weeks, have your child reconnect with classmates. Set up a safe play date outside of school hours. Developing a comfort level with other kids is important to a child’s success.
- Recall past positive experiences. Is your child experiencing first-day jitters? Remind them of fun school memories – like their favorite class (i.e. art, gym, science), a fun project they worked on last year, or a sports team they will soon be a part of. Self-efficacy is part of being able to visualize yourself and see yourself succeed, and memory plays a big part in this.
- Go supply shopping together. Growing up, one of my favorite times leading up to a new school year was going with my mom to the office supply store to buy my coloring pencils, notebooks, ruler and pens. Involving your child in the shopping experience, and if possible allowing them to make their own decisions, will empower them when starting the school year.
- Choose the right backpack for your child. When it comes to backpacks – it is important to choose wisely. Make sure your child’s bag is large enough for their school supplies, has padded shoulder straps and a padded back. More importantly, make sure your child’s backpack does not weigh more than 10-20% of your child’s weight. When wearing a backpack, make sure your child uses both straps, and the bottom of the backpack is at their waistline. Heavy backpacks or backpacks that are hanging too low on a child’s body can lead to back issues.
- Prioritize sleep and stick to a routine. During the summer, your family has likely been enjoying the longer days, and there is a good chance there has not been a strict nightly routine. However, a schedule helps improve sleep so your child can function best during the school year. Make sure your kids are going to bed and waking up around the same time every day – even on the weekends.
Make the First Day a Success!
- Be on time. Better yet, try to arrive at school early if possible. This way, your child will have the opportunity to walk around the hallways, find their classroom with ease, and feel confident when the first bell rings.
- Make contact with the teacher. Especially important when you have young children, make an effort to touch base with your child’s teacher on the first day of school. Keep in touch throughout the first few weeks to make sure your child is adjusting well and integrating into the new learning environment. Check to see how friendships and cooperation are developing. Along with keeping you in the know, this gives the teacher an opportunity to see that you are engaged and invested in your child’s success.
Going back to school is an exciting time for kids, but can also cause some fear and anxiety. With the tips above, you and your child can both feel confident and at ease as we start another great school year.
About the Author
Dr. John Spitzer is a pediatrician at Bronson Primary Care Partners in Texas Corners. He is accepting new patients now.
“I am thankful every day to be a pediatrician. I enjoy being able to work with kids. They are honest, sometimes silly, and always bring pure sweetness. They are deserving of the best care and compassion that I can provide.”
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