10 Ways to Make Sure Your Child is Ready to Go Back to School
Believe it or not, summer’s almost over and the new school year will begin before you know it.
Are you ready? Or are you like a certain dad I know who usually waits until the last minute? Last year, this dad forgot:
- To book his child's physicals so he had to scramble to get checkups before flu shots.
- His daughter has some pretty significant fears about going into school the first day and he didn’t take the time to properly prepare her.
- To get his son's asthma inhalers refilled and the forms on file so that he could have it at school (until April when he was having a flare).
Don't be like me…here are 10 steps you can take to make sure you and your child are ready for back to school.
- Vaccines - Make sure that your child is up to date on vaccines. As your kids get older, your school might prevent them from enrolling in classes or other benefits, which might make it difficult to get their classes scheduled, etc. Vaccines are routinely scheduled at 4 years old (measles, whooping cough and polio among others), 11-12 (whooping cough and meningitis) and 16 (meningitis). At Cook Children's, we also recommend the HPV vaccination starting at age 11.
- Physicals - If your child plans to participate in a sport or marching band they may need a sports physical form to be completed by your child's doctor. This requirement is required by the UIL before junior high, ninth and eleventh grade but many schools ask for it each year. The marching band requirement is new so not as many parents are aware. I expect we'll be doing a lot of those in the first few weeks of August. Students who are attending private schools or participating in sports that aren’t governed by the UIL may have other physical exam requirements. Many of these kids are already out in the heat working hard preparing for their upcoming season, so I recommend getting these as soon as possible.
- Forms - Don't be that parent who realized in April that their child doesn't have his inhaler or the form required to take it at school (ahem ... me). Here are some common medications your child might take which might need to be administered at school: inhalers/nebulizers for asthma, insulin, ADHD medications and pain reducers.
- Sleep - Transitioning back to a sleep schedule that works for school might be the most difficult transition in prepping for back to school. The older your child, the more likely they are to be going to bed too late and sleeping in. Start making subtle changes in their bedtime over the next few weeks. Rolling bedtime back 30 minutes at a time can make the transition to early morning easier.
- Screen time - Just like sleep, screen time can get away from us a bit over the summer (Fortnite! I’m looking at you). An immediate drop off in daily screen time can be a struggle so starting to make changes now can help your screen junkies detox a bit before they go back to school.
- Your child’s back to school fear or anxiety - Many children deal with some fears about going back to school. These fears can be mild or they can be more severe, almost debilitating. Helping your child prepare for the transition by talking them through their day, setting up a play date with classmates ahead of time or taking a tour of the school can orient (or re-orient them) back to school in a way that can be helpful. If the anxiety is more severe, consider talking with your pediatrician or a play therapist in advance to help them and you prepare.
- Your back to school fear or anxiety - Getting yourself prepared for back to school is almost as important as preparing your child. Some parents will kick their kids out the door and drive off to their gym class without a second thought. For others, the transition can be just as hard on the parent as the child. Begin now to prepare yourself for what it will feel like those first few days at drop off. Showing emotions with your child is certainly OK, but a prolonged, tearful drop off can make things harder on your child.
- Supplies - Get your child ready for back to school by buying their school supplies in advance whenever possible. Whether you buy the prepared packet from school or enjoy the process of shopping for individual supplies doesn't matter, just make sure your child is well prepared with what they need to start the year off right. Buy some extra tissues or hand sanitizer to help the teacher out.
- Set goals - My favorite part of a new school year is the fresh start that kids can get. Whether last year was amazing or a huge struggle, it's a great opportunity to help our kids realize that they can always work on something to make themselves better. Using last year as a guide, help them set some goals that focus both on their strengths and challenges.
- Attend meet the teacher night - Sometimes these events occur before school and sometimes they occur a little after school starts. Use meet the teacher night strategically to help frame your child in a positive light. This can go a long way to helping your child accomplish their goals for the year.
Whether you're counting the hours until you can send the kids back or dreading the return of early mornings, hopefully, these tips will help you think through some of the things you need to consider. I know it did for me.
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Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.