Back-to-school basics from a pediatrician

Back-to-school basics from a pediatrician

As a new school year approaches, here are a few answers to common questions I get as a pediatrician about preparing your child for heading back to the classroom.

Should you be scheduling an appointment for your child with their pediatrician?

All children should see their pediatrician for routine checkups and physicals. Checkups are recommended yearly, but some physicians will see children every 1-2 years depending on age. Check with your pediatrician’s office about their recommended checkup timing. The summer months are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns from the previous school year related to learning, mood or behavior. If you have concerns about the upcoming school year and your child isn’t due for a check-up, I recommend scheduling an office visit with their pediatrician.

What topics should you be addressing with your child’s pediatrician?

Your child’s pediatrician can let you know if your child is due for any vaccinations. If they are, be sure to complete them prior to the start of school to allow your child’s body to build an appropriate immune response. Keeping children up to date with routine vaccinations is key to their health.

I also frequently talk with families about adjusting bedtimes to an earlier schedule for the upcoming school year. If a child stays up later in the summer months, I recommend moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every few days to allow the body to gradually adjust to falling asleep at an earlier time.

Some parents worry about a summer slump with their child’s learning. It’s reasonable to have your child work on reading during the summer to maintain that skill. Math practice is great, too!

How can you help your child have a healthy school year?

Provide nutritious food for your child. “Real” food is best – vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy, whole-grain carbohydrates. I encourage families to avoid processed foods whenever possible. This should be easy to detect by determining if the food is from a package with a long list of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. Children should also eat breakfast daily and avoid prolonged fasting or skipping meals. Food is energy for the brain, and we need adequate nutrition to concentrate and do well in school.

Do your best to ensure your child is drinking enough water during the day. Many children are likely mildly dehydrated at baseline. Proper hydration helps overall health.

Remind your child to practice good handwashing and cover their cough. And don’t forget that you should keep your child home if they are sick.

How can you check in with your child about how school is going?

Talk with your children often about how school and friendships are going. In our family, we ask about a high, low and favorite part of the day. This has helped my children significantly over the years. We’ve talked through happy and positive parts of their day as well as tougher moments. This method is valid for children of any age. I’ve found that children may often remain quiet about school or friend concerns until later at night, such as bedtime. As much as we want children to get good sleep, if your child asks to talk about something at bedtime, this may be a concern that has been bothering them and they are finally feeling courageous enough to bring it up. Be open to postponing bedtime occasionally to allow for a conversation like this.

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

Dr. Katherine Kormanik is a pediatrician with Aurora Children’s Health in Grafton, Wis.

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About the Author

Dr. Katherine Kormanik
Dr. Katherine Kormanik

Dr. Katherine Kormanik is a pediatrician with Aurora Children’s Health in Grafton, Wis.