5 tips to keep your children healthy at school
It’s August and with that comes school. In the past, my children were excited about back to school shopping, school supplies, and finding out their class schedules. As a parent of two, in August I would start filling out the family calendar with our busy schedules. My kids and I were sad that summer had come to an end but also happy for the structure and familiarity that the school provided.
This year is different; COVID-19, quarantine, masks, social distancing. In March, school systems had to think quickly to keep our children safe while providing them with an education, emotional support, and food for families in need. Virtual learning became a must to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Now 5 months later, schools are faced with what to do for the start of the new year. The choice to send children back to in-person learning is not an easy one.
Whether your school is going back in-person, all virtual or a hybrid model, keeping our youth healthy, and the teachers and staff safe is so important. Everyone should wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, and maintain at a minimum of 6 feet of separation. Let’s review 5 good practices for keeping our children well regardless of COVID-19.
1. Keep up with well-child checks and routine vaccinations
There has been a lot of press about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, but don’t forget there are many diseases where we have preventable vaccines. Annual physical exams allow practitioners to review the child/teen immunization status and make recommendations. Diseases like Measles and Pertussis can be prevented when everyone gets vaccinated. In May 2020 the Centers for Disease Control reported that routine vaccination rates for children had decreased. If you haven’t scheduled your child’s wellness exam call Northern Virginia Family Practice to get them up to date. Plus, with cold and Flu season approaching don’t forget anyone over the age of 6 months of age should get their influenza vaccine.
2. Promote daily physical activity
Since the beginning of the pandemic, kids have been more sedentary as we have been quarantined to stay home, gyms were closed, and organized sports were canceled. The benefits of exercise include fighting obesity, improving flexibility, and getting stronger. Daily exercise not only improves our physical fitness but also improves our mental health. The National Association for Sports and Physical Education recommends one hour of physical activity a day for school-aged kids. Without daily PE class or recess time, it is imperative that time is carved out in their daily routine for movement.
3. Maintain adequate sleep
Sleep is an important process in our overall health. During the pandemic, it is essential to get adequate sleep to maintain a healthy immune system and improve your physical and emotional health. With the start of school, it is vital that children maintain a good sleep schedule. Studies show that kids who achieve proper amounts of sleep have improved attention, learning, and memory. School-aged kids need an average of 10 -11 hours of sleep a night. To help your child achieve sufficient sleep have them go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, stop electronic devices two hours before going to bed and get plenty of activity throughout the day.
4. Keep a routine
A consistent schedule for your children provides structure and reduces stress and anxiety. The unknown promotes a lot of fear and worry. Creating structure and predictability will make your children more productive and achieve academic success.
5. Check mental health
Now more than ever It is important to check in with your child regarding their mental health. Social isolation and loneliness can be a big concern since the pandemic started. Fear and uncertainty also bring about more anxiety and sadness. Check in daily with your kids. Encourage them to talk about their fears, set up virtual get-togethers or outside time where they stay 6 feet apart, and wear masks. Physical activity, journaling, and mindfulness activities can help to relieve stress and improve their mood too.
COVID-19 has led to many transitions for our children. Northern Virginia Family Practice is here for you and your family to navigate the changes COVID-19 has brought. We hope you and your family stay safe and healthy.
By Jessica Ware, PA-C, concierge family medicine PA for 18 years focusing on high quality personalized preventive care.