If you’re anything like me, you’re currently celebrating the end of a successful school year for your children—and let’s be honest, for you too! During a time of so much uncertainty and constant change, the simple fact that your children have completed the 2020-21 school year is an accomplishment in and of itself! While I encourage you to embrace the summer and the rest it hopefully brings you and your family, I want to remind you that it’s never too early to begin preparing for the 2021-22 school year.
Back to school planning in June? Really?
At Pediatric Associates of Tampa Bay, we encourage our parents to “beat the summer rush.” We warn our children of the consequences of procrastinating on their homework, and this is no different! By scheduling your children’s well visits and obtaining necessary signatures for schools and sports now, you’ll avoid the rush in the late summer months of July and August.
Whether referred to as well visits, physicals or annual exams, these yearly visits to the pediatrician serve a very important purpose. Annual well visits include those physical screenings needed to sign camp and school forms, but these quick appointments also serve as a comprehensive review of your child’s physical, nutritional, developmental, educational and psychological well-being.
The age of your child dictates what needs to be done during the visit. For example, a 3-year old’s check-up doesn’t typically require immunizations or blood draws, but a 2-year-old check-up might entail a finger prick to check hemoglobin and lead. These visits also allow you to obtain refills on emergency inhalers, insulin and any other medication your child may need during a potential emergency at school.
While there is no correct time to schedule your child’s well visit, most parents do so either around his or her birthday or right before school begins. I recommend getting into a yearly rhythm that works best for your family.
Sometimes your children can’t go back to school before they receive required immunizations. This is particularly an issue if the school in question is a college or university. If your child’s school hasn’t communicated any requirements, or you’re simply unsure about recommended immunizations or vaccines for back to school, I recommend reaching out to your child’s school as soon as possible. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list their recommendations on their website. It’s also important to have your child screened for age-appropriate conditions, such as hearing before preschool, obesity before grade school and depression before high school.
COVID-19 has changed so much of our day-to-day lives, including the way our children learn. Many parents have determined that in-person learning is best for their child’s development, while others have gravitated toward virtual learning, especially if the child has underlying health conditions or is immunocompromised. Virtual or at-home learning may pose challenges with staying connected to peers, since students may have less frequent or no in-person interactions with each other. As a pediatrician, I encourage parents of virtual learners to talk to school staff about what they are doing to support connection among students, interactive learning with feedback, building resilience and social-emotional wellbeing for students who will not be onsite.
In addition to scheduling your child’s annual well visit ASAP, there are plenty of items you can cross off your to-do list now rather than in mid to late August:
- Schedule additional appointments, including dental and vision (if necessary) to ensure your child is up to date.
- Find out what kind of technology your child will be using in the classroom, and how (or if) they will be expected to use it at home.
- Explore extracurricular opportunities for your child and help them choose a manageable number of activities to join.
- Have a conversation about responsible, respectful internet and social media use—even if you’ve had plenty of these talks before.
- Identify and mark down all important dates during the school year, including holidays, early release days, special events and testing windows.
- Create a system to keep track of classroom forms, info and reminders.
- Prepare for the unexpected! Even if your child’s school is planning to open for in-person learning, prepare for that to possibly change. Depending on how things go, virtual learning may become a bigger part of the school year than first anticipated. So just prepare yourself for that possibility and try to have contingency plans in place.
No one enjoys homework over the summer, but trust me, you will be grateful you completed this assignment early. Beat the Summer Rush by scheduling your child’s well visit as soon as possible!
Pediatric Associates of Tampa Bay patients can visit www.pediatricassociates.com/schedule or call 855-KIDZ-DOC to schedule a well visit. If your child has already had a well visit this year, we have made it incredibly easy to request and obtain school forms by visiting pediatricassociates.com/forms/.