A new backpack, clothes and school supplies are on every parent’s back-to-school checklist, but that is not all your child needs before they head back to school.
“Starting school as healthy as possible sets children up for a successful start to the school year,” said Julie Linton, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “It’s important that parents do a little homework of their own and go through a back-to-school health checklist to help prepare their child for the school year.”
For a healthy start to the school year, Linton and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer the following checklist:
North Carolina law requires children to receive certain vaccines. Immunization records are checked upon entering child care, kindergarten, seventh grade and college.
Medications and Medical Conditions
Children who regularly take medication at school are required to bring a completed authorization form to have it administered at school. Often these forms must be signed by a child’s medical provider and can be completed at their physical. It is important to keep schools informed about any potentially serious medical conditions children may have.
A yearly physical gives parents and children an opportunity to discover and discuss current and potential health problems or concerns with a medical provider. All children who are new to North Carolina schools, including kindergartners, are required to have a medical provider complete a health assessment form and return it to their school. Children participating in school sports also need a yearly physical. The best place to have this completed is with the child’s regular medical provider. You can also check with your child’s school system for guidance on fulfilling this requirement.
Ease Back Into a Sleep Schedule
Gradually ease kids into an earlier bedtime and an earlier wake-up time—even just 5 to 10 minutes earlier each night—a few weeks before school starts. Staying active during the day, having a calming bedtime routine that includes reading books together, cutting out sugar- and caffeine-laden snacks prior to bedtime and limiting late-afternoon naps can help.
Reduce First-Day Anxiety
Many kids, especially those entering a new school for the first time, experience some anxiety about the first day of school. Parents can help ease these worries by talking about what to expect on the first day, reading stories together that talk about school or “back-to-school jitters”, choosing a special outfit to wear and packing their child’s backpack with all necessary supplies the evening before.
Healthy Meal Options
Keep quick, healthy meal options on hand—whole-grain breads and cold cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit—to ensure a healthy start to the day. Healthy lunch options can include veggies, fruits, dairy products, lean meats and whole grains that will help keep energy and attention high through the afternoon.
A child's backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight to reduce the chance of back pain or injury. A lightweight backpack that has two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back are recommended.
“Completing this health checklist is a great way to help your child start the school year with their best foot forward,” said Linton. “Every child needs a chance to thrive and maximizing their health helps them reach their full potential in school.”