Q: How can families best prepare their children for a healthy return to school?
Ensuring kids’ healthy return to school involves the whole family and a combination of physical, emotional and practical preparations. A few quick tips include:
Adjusting sleep schedules. Start a few weeks before school starts and shift bedtime and wake-up times to align with the school routine. A consistent sleep schedule helps maintain energy levels and supports cognitive function.
Healthy nutrition is important for all. For families that need help with nutritional balance, a virtual care physician can help understand what changes can be made to improve the family meal planning and help identify the foods needed to support a child’s growth, immune system, and concentration in class.
Reinforce family hygiene practices, like thorough handwashing with soap and water, using hand sanitizer when needed, and covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or elbows to prevent the spread of germs. (We got great at this during COVID-19, and don’t want to see a return to poor habits as we approach cold and flu season.)
Let’s help kids be prepared emotionally as well as physically. Take time to talk with kids about their feelings and expectations for the upcoming school year. Address any worries they might have and emphasize the importance of seeking help if needed.
Most importantly, stay informed about school policies related to COVID-19 or other health concerns. Follow recommended guidelines to keep kids safe, and be sure emergency contact information and health records are up to date.
Q: What are some key vaccination recommendations for children returning to school, and how important is it to stay up-to-date with these immunizations?
It’s essential to keep kids up-to-date with routine vaccinations, including measles (which is on the rise again), mumps, rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), polio, varicella (chickenpox), and influenza. Vaccines protect against serious illnesses that can spread in school settings.
If kids are eligible, consider getting COVID-19 vaccinations or booster updates. Recommendations may vary based on factors like age and vaccine availability, so be sure to stay informed about the latest guidance from health authorities. A CirrusMD physician can help with this important information.
Other vaccines to consider include Hepatitis B, which is usually given in a series of doses; Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations help prevent certain types of HPV that can lead to cancers and genital warts and is typically recommended for preteens and teenagers; Meningococcal Vaccines, depending on age and risk factors.
As a family physician, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying up-to-date with immunizations. Vaccines are designed to prevent serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. By vaccinating children, they’re shielded from illnesses that can cause severe complications.
Q: Do you have recommendations for managing stress and anxiety in both children and parents during the back-to-school transition?
Absolutely. Managing stress and anxiety during the back-to-school transition is important for both children and parents. Recommendations include:
Keep communication lines open. Encourage kids to talk about their feelings and worries. Listen without judgment and provide reassurance. Let them know it's okay to feel nervous but that they have a support system.
Keep a routine! A consistent routine can provide a sense of stability and predictability. Make sure there's ample time for school, homework, play, and relaxation.
Use positive framing to help kids focus on the positive aspects of going back to school, such as seeing friends, learning new things, and engaging in enjoyable activities.
Let’s all practice our deep breathing! Teach kids (and remind adults) simple, deep breathing techniques to help them manage moments of anxiety. Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths when they're feeling stressed.
Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is important for both kids and adults. A virtual care physician can help parents and other adults look for ideas to improve their health, whether that’s through exercise, balanced diet, adequate sleep, hydration, mindfulness, or even finding creative outlets. Remember to seek professional help when it feels like stress and/or anxiety are affecting daily life.
Q: Technology use, including screen time and online learning, has become more prevalent. Can we strike a better balance between technology usage and maintaining children's overall well-being?
This has become an ongoing discussion in the medical community and is the topic of quite a few research studies, which leads to plenty of opinions! Maybe there is no single answer, but it is vitally important that we find a balance between technology use and well-being. While technology offers benefits, excessive screen time and online learning can impact mental, physical, and social health. Parents should encourage limited and purposeful screen time, prioritize physical activity, social interactions, and outdoor play, and ensure adequate sleep for a well-rounded approach to children's overall well-being. (This same guidance applies to adults!)
Back to school can be a very stressful time of year, for adults and kids alike. Let’s remember that each child is unique and plan ahead to take steps to ensure a smooth and healthy transition back to school. For specific concerns or questions, please reach out to your virtual family care provider to get answers you need fast!