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Anastasia Williams, MD, is a medical director and pediatrician at Novant Health UVA Health System Olde Towne Pediatrics – Manassas. For more information about services offered at Olde Towne Pediatrics, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/pediatrics.

It is important to make sure children are prepared academically, physically and mentally to return to school, says Anastasia Williams, MD, medical director and pediatrician at Novant Health UVA Health System Olde Towne Pediatrics – Manassas, now part of UVA Health which includes UVA Children’s Hospital, the No. 1 children’s hospital in Virginia according to U.S. News and World Report. 

“After the last year of mostly virtual school, now is the time to establish a routine early,” said Williams. “Going back to in-person classes may be taxing on children and young adults. A consistent and steady daily routine can help alleviate anxiety.”

When your child comes home after school, set a regular homework time. Make sure they have a quiet place to work, free of distractions.

Here, Williams shares other information to keep children of all ages healthy through the school year.  

Immunizations

Immunizations are one of the most crucial factors in preventing the spread of illness. For middle school children, make sure their tetanus and meningitis immunizations are up to date. The tetanus booster (Tdap) provides protection against whooping cough. Rising college students will likely need a meningitis vaccine booster.

“This is the perfect time to make sure that young adults leaving for college are up to date on all immunizations,” said Williams. “You want your children to be prepared and healthy when they leave home.”

Many school-aged kids can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Have your children vaccinated against coronavirus if they are eligible before they return to school. Also, don’t forget about the flu shot in the fall.

In addition to immunizations, handwashing and hand sanitizer can significantly help reduce the spread of germs. Send your child to school with masks, disinfecting wipes and hand-sanitizer.

Sports physicals

Virginia requires sports physicals for middle and high school students to participate in sports, so make sure your child is ready to go.

Prepare children for their sports season by staying hydrated and getting in shape, including stretching and conditioning in the months leading up to the season.

Even if your child doesn’t play sports, take the opportunity to make sure your child is healthy for the upcoming school year with a regular checkup.

Nutrition

This is a good time to evaluate the food you send to school with your child. Healthy options include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and foods low in sodium and fat, and water instead of soda.

Sleep

If your child is sleep-deficient, he or she may have a harder time fighting off infections. Elementary school children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Middle school children should have anywhere from 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night, while high school students should be getting 8 to 9 hours.

“It is extremely important to get your teenagers back on a reasonable sleep cycle,” Williams said. “Get them back into a routine of getting to bed and waking up on time. The earlier you start this readjustment, the better.”

Resiliency training

Now is the time to begin building your back-to-school resilience routine,” said Williams.

Along with annual stressors like earlier wake-up times and morning carpool traffic, parents and students alike may feel anxious about returning to in-person classes.

The last year and a half was especially traumatic for many families. The American Psychological Association compiled tips for building resilience and overcoming anxieties as children go back to school, including:

  • Practicing positive thinking
  • Taking time for self-care
  • Accepting change

Becoming more resilient not only helps children and adults alike get through difficult circumstances, it also helps us to grow and improve our life along the way.

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