Whitney Fulton: 2021 is shaping up to be a special school year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I personally think this may have been the shortest, fastest summer ever, but, whether we are ready for it or not, school is coming!

For some, this is exciting, much anticipated, happy news! School supplies are purchased and lovingly organized in backpacks. First day outfits are painstakingly chosen. Fresh haircuts are obtained.

For others, this fact is undesirable, irritating or even terrifying. School supply lists are daunting and willfully ignored, and the dread of going back to class is drowned in video games and hours in the pool. Final romps in the playground are stretched as far as they’ll go.

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As we prepare to return to the classrooms, there are several steps you can take now to help make this transition as smooth as possible!

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to start working on getting sleep schedules back on track — waking up and going to bed earlier.

Those alarm clocks are about to start ringing rather early! For kids entering grades above preschool, avoiding daytime naps will help with reinstating regular sleep routine. Caffeine should be limited after lunchtime. Avoid electronic use for at least 30 minutes before bed and remove access to phones, tablets, video games, and televisions at bedtime.

Prepare a space in your home that is designated for homework completion. This site should be well lit, relatively quiet, and void of electronic distractions. Plan to have access to basic school supplies like pencils, crayons, scissors, paper, etc for assignments.

With your child’s input, create an afterschool plan so they will be aware of expectations for when and where homework will be done before the school year even begins.

If your child takes medications, review dose timing and who is responsible for ensuring doses are taken (as dosing schedule often varies from summer to school routine). If medication administration forms are required for school time doses, request those from your medical provider before the first day of school.

Many people are still worried about the effects of COVID-19 on school and related activities. Find out what your school’s safety precautions and policies will be, and talk with your kids about these expectations. Thankfully, it appears that most school districts are anticipating that the school year will start with students attending in person, but there will still need to be a number of safety precautions in place.

It is best to approach these conversations in a neutral, matter of fact, supportive way. Accepting and following the safety recommendations and encouraging your kids to do the same will help ensure that they can stay in their classroom desks with their teachers and friends!

While we still aren’t back to “normal”, we can all work together to make this year better than last!

Reach out to your child’s teacher(s)- the earlier those lines of communication are established, the better!

If your school has an open house, plan to attend and introduce yourself! Let them know that you’re invested in your child having a great year and how they can reach you with any concerns.

If there is anything specific they need to know about your child and their needs, the beginning of the year is the ideal time for that information to be shared. Talk to them about concerns you have about your child and enlist them in helping you monitor.

Most of all, prepare to be flexible. Your child’s needs will change as the year progresses, as will those of the classroom/school/community.

There is still a lot of uncertainty about the coming months, but we are all in this together.

Valley Health looks forward to partnering with you and your family as we navigate these times together! Stay tuned for regular updates from your Valley Health team, including periodic informational columns on various educational, behavioral, and mental health topics.

No matter where you and your kids are on this spectrum, Valley Health is ready and able to meet all of your health care needs!

Our pediatric and family care providers are available for well child visits, immunizations, and sports physicals, as well as on standby to care for any acute injuries or illnesses that may pop up. Our behavioral health team is extensively prepared to help you, your child, and their educational team navigate any mental health needs that may arise. Whatever your need, Valley Health can help meet it!

Whitney Fulton, MD is a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry. She joined Valley Health Systems in 2015.