Ask the Pediatrician: Sept/Oct 2020

Getting ready for this school year involves more than new sneakers and school supplies. Due to the pandemic, many will be learning remotely. Others in a hybrid model or attending school, pods, or daycare in-person will wear face masks, distance from others, and sanitize hands frequently. No matter how children learn this school year, some basic principles are necessary to prepare.

Sleep is the most important thing to get back on track before school starts
During summer, kids tend to stay up later, but with the pandemic, everyone’s hours have shifted. Although many still get an appropriate amount of sleep, now is the time to start moving bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days until you hit the appropriate bedtime to wake up in time for school–whether virtual or in person. Remember all kids need at least 10 hours of sleep (teens too!). Sleep is very important for a growing body and learning brain.

Start making breakfast nutrient rich to fuel that brain
Since being home for nearly six months, many of us have taken up baking. I am seeing more families eating sugary, “fun” foods, but research shows that a protein-rich breakfast can help kids focus and concentrate during the school day. Also, many kids are sensitive to artificial colors and added sugar. Good breakfast options are eggs, a glass of milk, oatmeal, or healthy nut butters on whole-grain bread.

Technology rules for this high-tech school year
Online school and technology go hand in hand, and we see more headaches and vision issues from kids sitting in front of a screen all day. Clearly, it’s hard to limit screens when it is required for many kids to complete school. I recommend having a family meeting to decide what your media use and screen time rules are going to be during this school year. Most importantly, keep screen-free zones in your house, such as the kitchen table. And have a media curfew, which means an hour before bedtime all screens are turned off and charged out of the bedroom in a central location so not to interfere with sleep.

Get your back-to-school checkup now
It’s important to note that most pediatricians’ offices are cleaner and safer than they have ever been. Now is the best time to get your kid’s back-to-school checkup. Even if your child is staying home, a head-to-toe examination is important. Get any needed vaccines (flu vaccines too!) and discuss with your doctor any mental health or learning issues to make sure your child has a successful year. Also, if your child takes any medication, make sure you have upto- date prescriptions.

Ease the stress and anxiety kids are feeling
Normally, back-to-school time is stressful for both kids and adults. This year, with worries about COVID-19, combined with home isolation and the need for flexibility as plans change daily, mental health is a top priority. The most important thing you can do is talk to your kids often about their feelings, concerns, and worries. Help them feel safe, loved, and supported. Remember that school plans constantly change. Your child may be sent home to quarantine even if not sick, so be adaptable to help your child quickly adjust. Reach out to your pediatrician or mental health provider if you or your child need additional tools or support.

Stay safe from COVID-19
Whether your child returns in person to school, joins a learning pod, attends a child-care setting with virtual learning, or has a playdate, the same principles must be followed to keep everyone in your community safe. Wearing masks, distancing, and washing hands are the top three measures to decrease the chance that COVID-19 afflicts your family. Make sure your pediatrician or health care provider has COVID-19 tests available if needed. Testing and contact tracing will be key this school year to stop transmission.

No matter how your children learn this school year, we are all one community helping support each other to stay safe, healthy, and well.

If your family needs help with any health or wellness issues, please let us know. At Calabasas Pediatrics Wellness Center, we specialize in helping families be healthy, well-adjusted, and successful and helping them stay safe.