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Family doctor tips: Preparing for back to school

child doing homework
Written by Alexis Dobranowski

Hate to say it: summer is starting to wind down. Store windows are filled with signs for back-to-school sales, and it’s time to start thinking about September.

Family physician Dr. Sharon Domb says it’s not too early to start thinking about easing the transition back to school for your children to ensure you are both ready to face the new year. “There are some things we can do to help set our kids and teens up for success,” she says.

Check on vaccines

Be sure your child’s vaccinations are up-to-date (even teens as they go off to college). You can find a list of vaccinations on Toronto Public Health.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who got vaccinated and when, as vaccines are given in multiple places – at the doctor’s office, at school by public health nurses (in grades 7 and 8), and sometimes at travel or other clinics. The family doctor does not receive a record of those done outside of the office, so it’s up to you to keep track. If grade 7/8 vaccines have been missed, you can visit a Public Health clinic to receive them free of charge. In addition to the routine vaccines, you may want to discuss additional optional vaccines with your physician.

Get eyes checked

It’s important to have your child’s eyes checked by an eye doctor when they are starting school. Your child may not realize they aren’t seeing distances far away until they have to stare at the chalkboard (or Smart board).

Watch your back

It seems like kids and teens are staying the same, but backpacks get bigger and bigger! Is there a way to reduce what’s in that sack to help avoid injury or pain? Here are some tips for choosing a backpack.

Revisit eating and exercise

It’s a great time of year to check in on your eating and exercise habits, Dr. Domb says. Talk to your children about healthy eating choices, and involve them in planning school lunches and after-school snacks. Get your child involved in making the lunches too. Check Canada’s Food Guide and make sure your child is getting the recommended nutrients. If you think your child is having trouble getting those nutrients, whether due to a modified diet, pickiness or low appetite, speak to your family doctor. Talk with your child about being active and help find activities they enjoy (not everyone likes team sports. Is there another physical activity your child enjoys?)

Set new rules and limits

September is a good month to check in on family rules and limits. Is your child now old enough to get added responsibilities, like emptying the dishwasher or making lunches? Screen time and bedtimes sometimes change over the summer – is it time to reset TV and video game limits? Is the summertime bedtime OK to keep up through the school year, or should your kid or teen hit the hay a little earlier now that school is starting?

Lessons learned?

Reflect on last year. Were there issues at school that should be addressed before a new school year begins? Did your child struggle academically? Were there behavioural issues that should be dealt with? Make an appointment with your child’s school if there are unaddressed issues so that you can touch base with them early in the school year and set your child up for success. Does your child struggle socially? Take some time before school starts to talk about strategies he/she can try this year.

Happy Back-to-School! Do you have any other yearly routines to help you get ready?

About the author

Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.