Back to School Wellness Tips

By:  Catherine Tuorto is a Nurse Practitioner with MedExpress she oversees all nurse practitioners in northern Florida, including Jacksonville.

You may have all of your back-to-school supplies checked off the list, but gearing up for a new school year means more than just being ready for the classroom – especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For many families, this year may be the first year that a child is returning to mostly in-person school learning after attending classes virtually or using a hybrid model.

Challenges as changes in routine, breaks in continuity of health care and learning, loss of safety and security as well as missed significant life events can all be especially traumatic to children.

To help children cope with returning to school during the pandemic, parents can keep the following tips and tricks in mind to ensure a smoother transition.

  1. Prepare ahead of time for sick days

For children whose schools are returning to in-person learning this year, the shared goals of both schools and families will be to provide learning and important services such as meals, extracurricular activities and extended daycare while reducing the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). That’s why it’s important to prepare ahead of time in the event that your child becomes sick during the school year:

  • Make a list of local COVID-19 testing site locations if your child needs to be tested.
  • Identify who at your child’s school you should inform in the event that your child tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Set up a quiet, well-lit learning space in your home that your child can work from if in-person learning shifts to virtual learning.
  • Monitor your child each day for symptoms and keep them at home if they are sick to prevent spreading sickness to others.
  1. Support your child’s mental and emotional well-being

Apart from becoming ill, the COVID-19 pandemic can also impact children in psychological and emotional ways as they are faced with unique challenges that can be difficult to manage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that trauma faced at a young developmental age may have long-term consequences, making it important for parents to keep a close eye on their child’s behavior and coping mechanisms. Parents should:

  • Be alert for excessive worrying or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits and trouble paying attention or concentrating, which are all signs of stress.
  • Reassure children that they are safe and taken care of.
  • Provide honest and accurate information.
  • Maintain a normal routine and schedule.
  • Promote a good diet, plenty of exercise, and proper hygiene.
  • Talk, listen and encourage expression of feelings or emotions.
  • Have children reach out to friends, family and encourage social interaction.
  1. Stay up to date on vaccinations

During COVID-19, many parents may have had to pause annual pediatric visits for their children, which means that their vaccinations may not be up to date. Before returning to school, parents should ensure that their children have received the following common vaccines that are required in most states for school-age children:

  • Influenza (flu)
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV)*
  • Meningococcal*

Other common vaccinations that might be required include:

  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Chickenpox
  • Polio
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

* specifically for children 11-18 years old or earlier if the vaccine is recommended for a child with certain health or lifestyle conditions that may put them at greater risk of disease.

While there’s no way to be sure of what this school year has in store, parents can better prepare themselves and their children for the future by prioritizing physical, emotional and social wellbeing.

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