Back To School With COVID-19

It’s that time of year again, with one big twist.  Have you got kids going to school this fall?  Me too!  We’re shopping for school supplies and clothes and shoes just like everybody else.

Of course this is not a typical year.  Schools are wrestling with the best and safest ways to get kids back to school.  They need to balance academics with health and safety for students, staff and teachers too.  Plans are changing, sometimes on the daily, and it seems like the complexity rivals the invasion of Normandy.

Are your kids ready to go back?  Are they doing online schooling, in-person schooling, or a hybrid?  Whatever your plans, there are a number of things you can do to set your kids up for success this school year!

Good Sleep

Did your kids get off their school sleep schedule this summer?  Don’t worry, if they did you should have plenty of time to get them back on-track before school starts.

Elementary school children need about 10 hours of sleep per night.  For instance, if the kids’ bus comes at 7:30 AM they will likely need to get up between 6:30 and 7:00.  So bedtime should be about 8:30 so that they were asleep by 9.

You will want to give plenty of time to adjust a child’s sleep schedule.  Move bedtime by no more than a half-hour per night, every few nights, to let your child adjust.  If they’ve become accustomed to sleeping in, start instituting a set wake-up time.  In the adjustment period if they seem tired let them take a short nap.

There are plenty of things to adjust to in the first few weeks of school.  Fatigue and sleepiness and battles over going to bed and waking up are things you just don’t need to deal with.

Even if you’re doing online learning, children (and adults!) still benefit from the routine of set bedtimes and wake-up times.  Our child’s school will have remote-learning students attending classes live through two-way livestream, so even if we decide to do the first quarter remote he will still need to be up and ready before first bell.

Doctor’s Visits

Are your kids playing sports this school year?  While sports schedules are still up in the air, it’s a good idea to get their sports physicals out of the way.  The physical is good for a year and is covered by health insurance.  Make sure to bring along any medication administration forms (for asthma or other meds your child will need to take at school).

If your child will be heading into kindergarten or 7th grade, they will need vaccines prior to starting school.  You should have gotten paperwork from the school already if your child is affected.  Remember that although your rising 7th grader is required to have the DTaP, the meningitis and HPV vaccines are also recommended at this age.

I get a lot of questions about the HPV vaccine and dove a little deeper into that topic in this post.  Please discuss the vaccine recommendations with your child’s doctor in detail.

After the 7th grade shots, your child will be done with tetanus shots until after college (unless she hurts herself, gets bit by a dog, etc) but she will need a meningitis shot booster at age 16.  Other than annual flu shots those are all the immunizations your child will need.

Nutrition

If you’ve gotten off track this summer with healthy eating, now is a good time to re-evaluate things.  Getting (back) in the habit of eating a good breakfast each morning NOW will reduce hassles later.  If constant grazing on snacks has become a problem, taking steps now to reduce between-meal snacking will help your child make it from breakfast to lunch without getting too hungry or cranky.

There are a number of supplement options to support your child’s immune system, which is important every year but especially now.  A good multivitamin provides basic support.  Chewables should not have artificial colors, sweeteners or added sugar (check here for my recommendation).  Vitamin D is very important as it seems COVID disease may be milder (and other illnesses like influenza as well) in patients with normal blood levels.  A good probiotic, combined with a diet rich in fiber from fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains, supports good digestion and immunity both.

COVID-Specific Issues

There are a number of things unique about this school year.  The first and most obvious is the need for masks.  Small children will likely have trouble wearing masks for extended periods, but starting to introduce them at home can make it easier.  Making it a game, letting them choose their masks and wearing them for progressively longer periods at home will make the transition to wearing them at school go smoother.

For children who will be learning remotely, we have to make sure they stay connected with friends at school.  This may mean video chats to play games and just talk and laugh.  Outdoor games with friends like Frisbee, throwing a baseball, riding bikes and other activities can be done safely while maintaining physical distance.  Our children need their friends, their mental health depends on it.

From a health standpoint, heading back to school can be stressful.  With a little planning your youngsters can transition into the school year happy and healthy.

QUESTION:  What back to school health concerns do you have that I didn’t discuss?  I can always talk about them next week, LOL!

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