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Back to Class: Help Your Child Prepare for School Success

Back to Class: Help Your Child Prepare for School Success

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Sponsored Content

 

SUBMITTED PHOTORe-establishing routines can help to ease the transition back to school for children. A regular bedtime, family meals, and less screen time are recommended.

August is here and for many families, that means it’s time for the kids to return to school. Helping your child prepare can help to ease the transition.

“Getting kids back to a routine is very important,” says Glenn Gookin, MD/PhD, family medicine physician at Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “Summertime can be a wonderful period of vacation, sleeping in and mental rest. If routines dropped off in your house, I suggest trying to get back into those routines now.”

Dr. Gookin says regular family meals are one routine that can help to add structure to the day.



“We know children eat healthier during shared family meals,” he says. “It provides a chance to talk and unwind over dinner and can improve mental health for both children and adults.”

Other ideas for family back-to-school routines include establishing a regular reading time with your child. Visiting the local library can be a fun and free way to wrap up summer for you and your child and can help to re-ignite an interest in reading.



Dr. Gookin says now is also the time to re-establish rules and expectations for screen time. He recommends shutting down digital devices at least an hour before bedtime to help with sleep and memory retention.

Of course, even with preparation, some children will still feel anxious.

“For children who have nerves or anxiety about returning to school, I recommend starting early and listening to your child,” Dr. Gookin explains. “A natural inclination for some people, like me, is to jump to a solution right away. Even our youngest children can offer amazing insight to their feelings. Encouraging your child to voice their fears will help you to develop a support network for them around their given concern.”

Dr. Gookin recommends asking open-ended questions and giving your child space to answer on their own rather than asking close-ended or leading questions. For instance, try asking, “What do you think you will learn at school?” rather than, “Do you want to go to school?”.

Open-ended questions give children the opportunity to freely talk about an experience or concern and give them more control over what they share.

And whether your concern is your child’s mental health or physical health, Dr. Gookin says one good antidote is activity.

“Exercise boosts our immune system,” he says. “Movement is medicine! Parents should model exercise, exercise breaks throughout the day are great for all of us.”

Dr. Gookin recommends finding opportunities to take five-minute power breaks with your child when he or she is at home – just long enough to do a quick dance, a quick bodyweight exercise, or just run up and down the stairs together.

There are also free or low-cost fitness apps and free videos online that can motivate both children and parents.

Finally, Dr. Gookin reminds parents to be sure their children are current with their immunizations.

“Staying up-to-date on routine vaccinations is essential to prevent illness from many different infections,” he explains. “Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to help safely develop immunity to disease. For COVID-19, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is the leading public health strategy to prevent severe disease. COVID-19 vaccination and boosters as recommended by the CDC are recommended by your children’s pediatrician. Vaccination has proven to lessen transmission, severity of disease, and death.”

For those concerned about the COVID-19 risk for kids returning to school, Dr. Gookin points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports safe, in-person learning. Local school systems have worked hard to develop policies that protect students, school staff, and teachers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated a critical lesson to us all as parents and citizens: the importance of in-person school,” Dr. Gookin says. “Remote learning has highlighted educational inequities in our community, has stopped the positive progress of many children in the classroom and worsened the growing mental health crisis among children and adolescents. Schools do not significantly increase community transmission of COVID-19, especially when guidance outlined by the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is followed.”

So, remind your child about bedtime, and healthy eating, and regular activity, and help them to be excited about returning to school this year. And if he or she still hits a speed bump, know that support is available.

“Remember that if your child is taking a prolonged time to adjust to school this year, your child’s pediatrician understands what you are dealing with,” Dr. Gookin says. “We are here to listen and help connect with additional resources and skills to help your family get through these challenging times.”

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