A Back to School Checklist for Your Child’s Health

This will make sure that our kids’ health is ready for school, too!

Ah, fall. It’s a great time of year, but a busy one full of change. Leaves begin to change colour. We start getting notices from companies to change our air filters, put on our winter tires, and inspect furnaces.

It’s also time to stop hearing the Pokémon theme song in our ears from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of year: back-to-school season, yay!

There’s a million and one checklists out there to prepare for the back-to-school season. But while we often look at where to get the best deals on backpacks and school clothes, we often forget that our little perpetual-motion machines need annual inspections and service too. (It makes me tired just to watch kids some days, I swear. How do I borrow some of this energy?)

We’re all bouncing from soccer practice to swim lessons, jamming regular activities like shopping and family barbecues into our lives like a chipmunk who found the motherlode of all peanut bags which might vanish if he can’t fit it all in his mouth in one trip. It’s easy to forget (most) things in the rush of the season.

So, here’s an easy BTS checklist to make our lives that much easier, and to make sure that our kids’ health is ready for school, too!

Time to Do All the Checkups!

Just like it’s a good time to remember to book the furnace inspection every year, August is a great month to make quick rounds with the dentist, family doctor, and optometrist for a routine checkup, even if you don’t have health concerns. Did you know that even very small vision problems can “tire” out young readers, because they’re diverting energy from “processing” the meaning of words that they read to “processing” the shape of the letters and words themselves? Young kids might not know they’re having problems with their sight, which is why it’s best to let the experts evaluate.

Visiting the family doctor is a great time to make sure your children are up to date on their childhood vaccines. Kids attending school in Ontario must be vaccinated against nine diseases unless there’s a valid exemption (you can find the list of required vaccines here!).

With recent outbreaks of mumps, measles, and whooping cough, it’s more important than ever to make sure that our kids are vaccinated. Not only does it help keep them healthy and reduce the chance of  outbreaks, our good health protects infants, the elderly and the immunocompromised, who need our immunity to  protect them by stopping the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Besides, have you ever heard someone sick with whooping cough? It’s a sound you will never forget.

Make Sure Medical Paperwork at the School is Up to Date

Take a picture of your child’s vaccination record with your phone at the doctor’s office, especially if your child has received new vaccines. It’ll be handy to glance at if you can’t recall when their last tetanus shot was, because emergency rooms are not great places for calm reflection.

For children who need medications administered at school, you’re going to need that doctor’s note (good thing we visited, right?!) and probably your own written instructions as well. Make sure the instructions are nice and clear, and take some time the first day of school to ensure they’re being kept and administered by a responsible adult.

If your child has life-threatening allergies, make sure you prep a new anaphylaxis plan for that school year, complete with an up-to-date photo and contact information. This should be in your child’s backpack the very first day, along with his or her epinephrine injector and other medications. Your allergist can likely send you a printable sheet with much (if not all) of the information that will save you a hand cramp or three.

Have the Big Health Talks!

There’s a lot to cover, and some will be depending on the age of your child. Young children just starting school may be dealing with separation anxiety, which might require some “practice” and goodbye rituals to acclimate to; older kids should hear about road and playground safety (trust me – after two years of dealing with broken collarbones, a safety talk about the playground is well warranted!).

And yes, older kids might need that talk. You know exactly which talk I mean; take your fingers out of your ears and stop yelling “LALALA!”

It’s also a great time to talk about smaller health things! While nothing is guaranteed to prevent the annual Back to School spread of germs, a “hygiene routine” is a great practice that will ultimately get your kids out the door scrubbed and with teeth brushed, thus avoiding the regularly-scheduled drop-off-line spit-bath from mom.

The hygiene routine is also a great time to introduce your kids to allergy consideration – it’s more than likely that one of their classmates has food allergies. Did you know one of the easiest ways they can keep friends safe is as simple as washing their hands and face after eating?

Lunchbox Plans and Healthier Eating

Getting the kids involved in making their lunches for school is a great way to A) get them on a lifelong habit of healthy eating, and B) keep yourself from the bad habit of ending school years by making lunches that consist of 4 dried carrot sticks and a Wowbutter and jelly sandwich on a hamburger bun.

My son is a traditionalist; he’s happy eating a sandwich (the exact same sandwich) all year round. Far be it from me to complain, because he makes it himself. Beyond the sandwich, I have only two hard and fast rules. Lunch isn’t complete without at least one fruit and one vegetable. And he can pick and pack his fruits and veggies himself, as long as he is mindful about eating a variety of colours throughout the week.

Practice Listening

I won’t pretend, parents, that being a parent is always an easy thing and all wisdom can be distilled in a simple listicle even as awesome as this one. Growing up is tough to do.

If your child is suffering from anxiety, boredom, bullies, stress, or other unhappiness, listening is your first step towards helping them make it better. It keeps an open door of communication between you and your child so that together you can work through problems, even when you’re apart. You’ll know what you’re up against if you need to seek professional help, and for everything else, it will make it easier to you to help them help themselves.

Sleep Schedules

If you’ve let sleep schedules go out the window in the hopes that maybe – just maybe – you might get to sleep in past 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, you’re not the only one. Unfortunately, fun’s over, kids!

Once they start school, kids need at least 10 hours a night – possibly more for children who are just starting full-day Junior Kindergarten. Those long days are a big transition for them. Give yourself at least a week – two is better if they’re way off sleep schedules – to start gradually back to where they need to be. Remove their screen devices and reintroduce a bedtime routine that gets them back in the habit of lights-out by a certain time every night.

Here’s to a great new school year where we put health forward. Happy back-to-school season!