Giving children have a healthy start to the school year

Summer vacation is nearing its end and the school year is almost here. It’s the time of year when students wonder where the season went, and parents look ahead to the ‘normal’ routine.

The school year may look different this year due to COVID-19, but there are still steps parents can take to help children have successful and healthy school years. Whether going to class in person or virtually, making an appointment for back-to-school check-ups, making sleep a priority, and assessing children’s mental health are just a few ways you can support your favorite students this school year.

Check-up Time

As August speeds by, it is a great time to make appointments for back-to-school checkups with your children’s primary care provider. These checkups allow the provider to re-evaluate and update your child’s medical history, refill needed medications, update immunizations, and assess cognitive and physical development.

“Every year, summer slips away from us quicker than we expect, so it’s definitely not too early to get your kids and teens in for their back to school check-ups,” says Mile Bluff pediatrician,Dr. Ryan Plamann. “I know some parents have put off routine visits due to COVID, but with steps that we are taking here at Mile Bluff, I feel confident that we are doing the best job we can to keep our kids safe for these visits.”

Maintaining a regular schedule of these ‘well visits’ can also help your child develop a trusting relationship with their healthcare provider. This will enhance continuity of care, ease a child’s anxiety about going to the doctor, and helps established a baseline of information about your child’s health

Doctor Plamann knows how quickly children change and grow. “It is so important to have that regular visit to ensure your child is healthy, developing normally and up-to-date in all the important vaccines we give,” explains Dr. Plamann.

In addition to back-to-school check-ups, sports physicals are also recommended for any student taking to the athletic field or court. All of this helps to prepare children for a healthy start to the school year.

Mental health

As they eagerly pick out schools supplies, children may also be experiencing nervousness or anxiety about changing teachers, schools and reconnecting with friends. This can occur at any age.

“There is a lot to be anxious about in our world these days. But even before COVID, transitions into school, either for the first time or to another level, were and are stressful for our children,” says Dr. Plamann.

If your child seems nervous about the school year, ask them what they are worried about and help them problem solve ways to master the new situation. Instead of focusing on the worries or discrediting your child’s concerns, focus on the positives of starting school to create a positive outlook for the first day of class. Your child will see old friends and meet new ones. Talk with your child about the great experiences he or she may have had in the past at school or with other groups of children.

In a world with COVID-19 concerns, children, parents, and school staff will be adjusting to a school year that abides by safety precautions. Whether that is extra hand washing, wearing a mask in class, or limiting the amount of physical interactions, there are positive steps you can help your children mentally prepare for the year ahead.

As a healthcare provider, Dr. Plamann has witnessed how quickly COVID-19 changes health recommendations, but also feels confident in our local resources. “It is hard to predict what this school year will look like,” says Dr. Plamann. “I know first-hand by talking with people at all of our Juneau County school districts that a lot of smart people are working hard on keeping our children safe. I think we have to all do our best to make this school year safe and productive. We can closely follow recommendation from the local healthy department, the CDC and our state government to make sure we are using best practices to control the spread of COVID-19.”

Make sleep a priority

Summer activities and antics often lead to later bedtimes for children. As the school year quickly approaches, returning children to their “normal” bedtime may make the transition smoother for kids.

“Now is the time to get our children back in the proper sleep routine for school,” encourages Dr. Plamann. “A well rested child is a happy and productive student!”

All children need proper sleep each night, no matter what their age. Experts recommend that elementary age kids get nine to 11 hours of sleep a night; and middle to high school age kids between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

“Poor sleep leads to poor attention, lower energy levels, and worse school performance. Make sure that all electronics are off at least 30 minutes and if possible at least an hour before bedtime,” says Dr. Plamann. “Take that last time of the day to have a healthy sleep routine that includes getting ready for bed, brushing the teeth and some quality family time. Also reading before bed is an excellent way to wind down from the day and quietly engage our minds before sleep.”

To prepare for the school year, consider starting your children on their ‘school time’ sleep schedule at least two weeks before the first day of school. Not only will this help kids get fall back into the routine, the extra sleep may make the transition into the school year a little smoother.

Before your student hits the books, be sure to help them enjoy the last few moments of summer vacation. If you have questions about preparing your students of school, or would like to schedule a back-to-school check-up, providers like Dr. Plamann are currently accepting new patients. To make an appointment with a healthcare provider, call one of the numbers below.

Delton Family Medical Center: 608-254-5888

Elroy Family Medical Center: 608-462-8466

Mile Bluff Clinic: 608-847-5000

Necedah Family Medical Center: 608-565-2000

New Lisbon Family Medical Center: 608-562-3111

Sources – John Hopkins Medicine, HealthChildren.org​