Believe it or not, the start of the school year is right around the corner. Before putting kids on the school bus, child health experts suggest families do a little homework of their own.
“It can be really hard to transition from the lazy days of summer to a bustling school schedule,” says Alanna Braun, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “However, taking the time to check-up on your student’s wellness before that first bell rings, can set them up for success throughout the whole year.”
To help facilitate a smooth transition, Braun recommends adding the following items to your back-to-school checklist:
- Get a wellness exam: A yearly physical gives parents and children an opportunity to discover and discuss current and potential health problems or concerns with a medical provider. Be sure to mention any concerns about learning and behavior to help children succeed in school
- Provide medical history, emergency contact info: Share a child’s medical records, including information about asthma, allergies or prescription medication, as well emergency medical contact information, with the school, and develop a realistic action plan should any health issues arise.
- Get vaccinated: Oregon law requires that students of all ages receive certain vaccines before they attend public schools and daycare facilities. To further prevent serious illness, families with adolescents and young adults also should consider shots to prevent human papillomavirus, or HPV, and meningococcal disease.
- Decrease anxiety: If children are nervous about going to school, or a new school, it helps to rehearse the first day and even go to see the school or classroom together. Families can give their children a copy of their home or work phone numbers (or have them memorize them) so they can call if they need help.
- Ease into sleep: Consider starting children on their school sleep/wake schedule a week or so ahead of time so that time change is not a factor on their first couple of days at school. Gradually ease kids into an earlier bedtime and an earlier wake-up time — even just 5 to 10 minutes earlier each night — a few weeks before school starts. Staying active during the day, having a calming bedtime routine that includes reading books together, cutting out sugar- and caffeine-laden snacks prior to bedtime, and limiting late-afternoon naps can help.
- Travel safely: If commuting to school by bike or by car, remember helmets or booster seat/safety belts. If the child takes the bus or walks to school, plan ahead to explore the route together.
- Keep it light: A child's backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15% of their body weight to reduce the chance of back pain or injury. A lightweight backpack that has two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back are recommended.