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A new school year is around the corner and many children are looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers as schools throughout Georgia prepare to return to full-time, in-person classroom instruction. While many Georgians are excited for the upcoming school year, it can also be a stressful time as families continue adjusting to pre-pandemic routines.

While you’re soaking up the remainder of summer break, start preparing now to avoid feeling overwhelmed with back-to-school planning. Set aside time each day to follow these tips so that you and your child are ready for a healthy, safe, and stress-free school year.

1. Finish summer assignments. Some children may have a list of books to read or other assignments to complete over the summer.

♦ Review and prioritize summer assignments.

♦ Assign deadlines to help your child manage their workload and stay on track.

♦ Designate a time and place for your child to complete their assignments, even while on vacation.

2. Set routines. Structure your child’s day now so that it’s easier to transition to the school schedule.

♦ Set go-to-bed and wake-up times that allow for the recommended hours of sleep: 10-13 hours for preschoolers (including naps), 9-12 hours for grade schoolers, and 8-10 hours for teens. Be sure to limit technology use before bedtime by removing devices from your child’s bedroom such as cell phones, televisions, and video game consoles.

♦ Set mealtimes at home that align with school mealtimes.

♦ Designate time during the day for your child to complete assignments, or other chores and activities that encourage the daily habits and routines.

♦ Create a family calendar so that it will be easier to manage commitments and prevent over-scheduling once school starts.

♦ Establish a routine of healthy habits like getting regular exercise, eating healthy meals and snacks, limiting screen time, and getting plenty of rest.

3. Book medical appointments early. Before the school year starts and schedules get hectic, book your child’s annual physical exam with their pediatrician, and other routine medical care such as dental and eye appointments.

♦ Don’t wait. Schedule your doctor’s appointment at least four weeks before the first day of the school if possible.

♦ Before appointments, compile a list of questions that you want to ask your child’s doctor.

♦ Find out which vaccinations or screenings are due and be sure to add these dates to the family calendar

♦ Discuss other screenings or vaccinations that should be considered, including the COVID-19 vaccine when your child is eligible.

♦ Discuss other medical concerns or issues, as well as recommended treatments or follow up.

♦ Ask for your child’s updated immunization record and other necessary medical information that you may need to provide to their school.

4. Complete school registration. Whether your child is returning to or starting a new school or participating in homeschooling, find out what steps and paperwork are required to complete registration.

♦ Visit the school’s website where the list of registration items is likely posted.

♦ Compile and send all required documentation, such as immunization records.

♦ Mark your calendar to attend any school registration events.

♦ Contact the local school district or review its website for updated information on home study programs.

5. Supply medical and other important instructions. Let the school know if your child has any medical concerns or unique needs.

♦ Alert the school about important medical information like allergies, medications your child takes, and if any medications need to be kept at school.

♦ Coordinate with the school if your child has special accommodation requirements or other unique needs.

6. Get the right school supplies and items. Don’t delay in getting your child’s school supplies and be mindful of other items they may need.

♦ Review the list of school supplies, books, and other required items, and start stocking up early.

♦ Review the school’s dress or uniform code to ensure your child has the right attire to meet requirements.

♦ Get a backpack that’s the right size and weight for your child, and make sure they know how to properly wear it to avoid potential harm.

7. Practice and prepare good hygiene habits. COVID-19 has underscored the importance of practicing good hygiene. Discuss habits that will help your child and others stay healthy.

♦ Remind your child about good health hygiene like frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and coughing or sneezing into their elbow.

♦ Create a “grab-and-go” germ prevention kit for your child to keep in their backpack and include items like hand sanitizer, sanitizer wipes, tissues, and a clean face mask.

♦ Review any mask guidelines or requirements. Discuss mask etiquette so that your child feels comfortable in various situations, including when masks are optional.

8. Talk about safety. Review important safety measures with your child.

♦ Help your child memorize important phone numbers and their home address.

♦ Review transportation plans so your child knows how they are getting to school, and who will be dropping them off and picking them up.

♦ If your child will be riding a bus, familiarize them with the bus stops and route, and important safety measures such as looking both ways before crossing the street.

♦ Help your child become aware of their surroundings, and who to alert if they sense a problem.

9. Role play the day. Before your child’s first day of school, talk through the day with them and plan details in advance.

♦ Discuss the back-to-school schedule with your child, including after-school care, sports, or other activities.

♦ Familiarize your child with the school environment by visiting the school in advance and meeting the teacher.

♦ Talk about mealtimes and snack times and if your child will bring their lunch or eat at school, and discuss any food allergies or insensitivities with your child and the staff.

♦ Decide the first-day-of-school outfit and lay clothes out the night before school.

♦ Role play various social scenarios so your child feels comfortable and confident interacting with their peers, teachers, and others.

10. Encourage questions and conversations. Ask questions and have frequent conversations with your child to ensure they feel comfortable heading into the new school year.

♦ Foster an environment of open communication to encourage your child to share what they’re excited and anxious about.

♦ Acknowledge anxieties or concerns, and work with your child to find healthy ways to address them.

♦ If you have any concerns about your child’s development, learning challenges, behaviors or feelings, discuss early with their pediatrician to partner on a plan.

Many children are eager to return to the classroom, but it can be stressful after the disruption caused by COVID-19. Wellstar partners with pediatricians in communities across Georgia to help parents address their children’s physical and mental health concerns and questions. This is especially important as we head into the school year and work together to safely return to a new normal.

“As schools transition back to what we hope will be a full year of in-person learning, it may be challenging for children to re-adjust,” said Dr. Andrew Doyle, Wellstar Health System pediatrician. “Parents can help their children prepare for a smooth back-to-school season by preparing early and having conversations to acknowledge and address any anxieties they may have. Also, getting them scheduled to see their pediatrician for important screenings and immunizations will help them to be their healthiest.”

Be sure to bring up any questions or concerns you have with your child’s pediatrician and start back-to-school planning now so that your child and family are ready and excited to start the new school year.

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Senior Reporter

I have worked for community newspapers in Butts, Henry, Newton, Rockdale, and Upson counties for 30 years. I was Editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus from 1993-1999, and returned to the Progress-Argus as Senior Reporter in 2019.

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