Back to School Health and Safety

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When it comes to returning to the classroom, school health and safety is among a top priority for many families.  Edward-Elmhurst health, in partnership with NCTV17, offers a number of tips to protect your children.

Why is it important for kids to get an annual physical, even if it’s not required that year?

A lot can change in a year! When kids get regular check-ups, the doctor can make sure your child is
growing and developing properly and take note of what has changed over the last year. The doctor can
also make sure your child receives necessary vaccines at the proper ages to prevent the spread of

How important is it to establish a sleep schedule/routine for kids (even older kids)?

Quality sleep is essential to overall good school health. With quality sleep, children have improved
mood and ability to focus. During sleep, the body is repairing itself and a child’s physiological processes
are recuperating. As a result, a good night’s sleep can help kids fight off illness and stay healthy. Sleep is
also essential for forming and retaining memories —an important part of learning!

The secret to getting kids on a back-to-school sleep schedule lies in having healthy sleep habits year-
round. A regular sleep schedule, as well as a quality sleep environment and other habits of good sleep
hygiene, contribute to children’s academic achievements and overall well-being.

  • Set a regular bedtime and give your child about 30 minutes advance notice.
  • Establish bedtime rituals, such as brushing teeth, reading a story and, for young children,
    snuggling with a favorite stuffed toy.
  • Take the TV and video games out of the bedroom.
  • Make sure the bedroom is cool and well-ventilated.
  • Don’t give your child caffeinated beverages, such as cola or hot chocolate.

The amount of sleep needed varies depending on your child’s age, activity levels, and individual needs.  The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following guidelines:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep
  • School-age children (ages 6-13) require 9-11 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) require 8-10 hours of sleep

What can parents do to calm their kids’ anxiety about a new school year?

It’s normal for a child to feel nervous about going back to school. New teachers, different routines,
maybe even a new school, would make any child edgy. Parents should be sympathetic and reassuring.
To ease the jitters, parents can:

  • Set a routine. Establish a routine for homework and bedtime and start practicing it before
    school starts.
  • Be selective when talking about school. It’s important to set expectations about the new school
    year but let your child initiate questions and discussion. Show enthusiasm about the teaching
    staff and principal.
  •  Clear your schedule. If possible, avoid business trips and evening commitments during the first
    week of school so you can be home to help your child. Use this time to talk about school and ask
  • Tour the school. If your child is switching schools or starting middle or high school, walk around
    the new building to find classrooms, practice using a locker and find the bus stop.
  • Allow extra time. Pack lunches and pick out clothes before bed to avoid being rushed in the
    morning. Send your child off to school with a good breakfast. Don’t turn on the television, tablet
    or video games before school.
  •  Get to know the staff. From the principal to school psychologist, school nurse and teachers,
    there are many resources for you and your child.

What kinds of precautions should parents take to protect their kids from COVID-19? Should they vaccinate their eligible children?

Students benefit from in-person learning, so safely returning to in-person instruction is important.
Vaccination is the leading prevention tool to keep kids safe from COVID-19. Parents should get their kids
vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.  Wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance will help prevent the spread of the virus. Keep kids
home if they’re sick.

Should parents review pedestrian safety with their kids before school starts?

Yes. With children walking to the bus stop or their school campuses, pedestrian safety is very important
for them to learn. Parents should teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before
crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until they’re safely across. Teach kids to put
phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. It is particularly important to reinforce
this message with teenagers.

Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally,
most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
Parents should set a good example by putting their phone, headphones and devices down when walking
around cars.