Written By Andre Nye, MD – Heading back to school after a long summer is as predictable as the leaves changing in the Fall. Defining back-to-school health goals at this time of year can be like a health “Fall Cleaning.” Families should not only consider their children but also themselves and perhaps their parents. Making sure your children are safe at school is a priority. This includes both medical and social concerns.
Back to School Health Tips for the Family
The entry point for making sure your children are back-to-school ready is usually the doctors’ office. Aside from making sure your child has the necessary vaccines and immunizations, your doctor will also discuss any medical problems your child has. For example, if your child has asthma make sure the school nurse has instructions on when and how to use medications and what to do if your child has an asthma attack. If your child has a seizure disorder make sure your child takes their medicine before school. Also, discuss a plan with the school nurse if he or she has a breakthrough seizure while at school.
One of the most common medications used for children in schools today is for attention deficit with or without hyperactivity. In this case, make sure your child has the medication before they go to school. Some drugs are dosed twice a day and some only once. If the nurse needs to give your child medication at lunchtime or late in the morning, make sure they have an adequate supply of medication. It is recommended that you check with the teacher occasionally and make sure the medication is providing true benefit. How are their studies going? How are their interactions with their peers?
Sports Physical Examinations
You may take your child to the doctor for a school sports physical. They will focus on the past medical history and perform a physical exam. The doctor will also make sure that your child has a full cardiac and pulmonary examination. This ensures that your child has the most serious health complications considered and excluded.
Is your child involved in a contact sport? When one thinks of contact sports they usually think of football. This can be intensely competitive and families can be exceptionally motivated to see their child succeed. Success in this area can bring a great deal of confidence to a developing individual. Not to mention, it can also bring a sense of pride, teamwork, and duty that goes beyond the sport. Remember it is important to balance this motivation while also protecting your child from injury. In some cases, there may be intense pressures to continue playing. However, if your doctor recommends avoiding the sport for a period of time particularly after a head injury, please take their advice.
Your child’s physical health is very important. However, it is vital that you do not forget about your child’s mental health. Children go through tremendous emotional growth, especially during their adolescent period. They are developing social groups, and begin to form aspirations for what they will do after high school. Many teenagers become sexually active and some begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
As a parent, it is crucial that you stay engaged and remain available to your children. Always be alert and ready to intervene. This is true even if your advice is not wanted. When I speak to parents on the subject I always tell them one thing, “Talk to your child, and make sure you ask the hard questions periodically.” “Are you drinking? Are you using drugs? Are you having sex?” Surprise them with these questions. “Are you happy? Do you need anything? What can I do to help you?”
Protecting Your Family
Finally, it is important that you do not forget about yourself and the older people in the household. Make sure you and your spouse are doing well. Studies show that children base their future relationships on how their parents interact. Try to make sure you are setting a good example. Make sure you do not ignore your own health needs; diet, exercise, and regular medical checkups.
Perhaps your parents are living in the home. They may have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and possibly heart disease. Keep a close eye on your children’s health when they go back to school. Your children go to school and may bring home an illness such as influenza, or Covid-19. Be proactive and make sure everyone who can be immunized does so.
Check in with your children occasionally and make sure they have enough loose change to teach them how to start managing money. I did this with my children regularly. I would ask them “Do you need any money?” and if they said, “No dad I am good” my next question was, “Fabulous…..can I have some?”.
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