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Get ready to start a healthy school year

Get ready to start a healthy school year

Getting ready for a new school year can be overwhelming with new routines, new teachers, rounding up needed supplies and clothes shopping for growing kids.

The start of the 2021-2022 academic year will include extra challenges. Students who studied remotely last year may be returning to in-person classrooms. Preventive measures will still be needed to keep everyone safe from the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

One key step for a healthy school year is for students ages 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before classes resume. Safe, effective vaccine, provided in two doses three weeks apart is readily available from local pharmacies, pediatric and other primary care clinics. Fully vaccinated students will be free to participate in classes, sports and activities with a high level of protection against COVID-19 infection. Even if they are exposed to someone who is infected with COVID-19, they won’t have to quarantine; they won’t miss school, practices or games.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children age 12 and older may safely receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the same medical visit they receive other recommended childhood vaccines.

Parents can also schedule a sports physical at the same clinic visit their child receives vaccination. In Montana, any sports physical done after May 1 is good for the upcoming school year. So don’t wait to schedule your athlete’s appointment.

Summer almost always disrupts children’s sleep routines. Schedules usually become less rigid, daylight hours are longer, families travel and take vacations. All these factors may throw your kid’s sleep schedule off balance.

Begin preparing for the new school year a week or two in advance. If your kids have been staying up and sleeping in later, begin adjusting their bedtimes gradually. That way, by the time the first day of school arrives, they should have no problem falling asleep on time and can enjoy the first day well rested.

Make sure your child has a daily, predictable routine, with regular times for healthy meals and night sleep at home. Having a rested body and knowing what to expect at home helps children cope.

Consider these back-to-school tips:

  • Touch base with your child’s new teacher before classes start, if possible.
  • Check in with your child’s school to see if there is an open house scheduled.
  • Talk to your child about school routines and your expectations for the year.  Give your child a sense of confidence about this new school year.
  • Get organized. Have your child’s supplies ready for the first day of class. Have plenty of lunch and snack items available.

If your child is anxious about separating from you, talk with the teacher about the best ways to start the school day. Brief goodbyes are often best. Try to stay calm and reassuring, using a gentle voice, with a relaxed face and body to let your child know that you wouldn’t leave unless your child is safe and protected.

Building new relationships is a skill, and with support, children can be resilient. Your child will gain a new trusted relationship with the teacher and feel more secure.

Starting a school year is exciting, even if it is still a little different than the routine before the pandemic. With your help, your child will feel ready to learn.

Vicki Sulser manages RiverStone Health School-Based Clinics at Orchard Elementary and Medicine Crow Middle School, serving all Billings Public Schools students and their families.  


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