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Sep 06

R is for Ready for School

Posted on September 6, 2022 at 12:57 PM by Kari Bray

This is Part 18 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at  

Top Three Take-Aways:  

  1. Ensure children and teens can get to and from school safely. 
  2. Help them be ready to learn by eating healthy and getting enough sleep. 
  3. Get in for back-to-school check-ups, sports physicals, and immunizations. 

 As children get going on the 2022-23 school year, they likely are focused on friends, classes and activities like sports or clubs. What they may not be focused on are some of the basics of health and safety for the school year. 

There are some important things to go over as kids return to school.  

Getting there and back safely 

There’s more than one way children get to and from school. All involve some risk.  

If your child will be walking, be sure to thoroughly review the safest route with them. Avoid busy roads, unmarked crossings, or poorly lit areas. Make sure they wear clothing or carry something that makes them visible to drivers – a dark outfit on a dark, rainy morning is hard to see. A parent, trusted adult or responsible older sibling should walk with younger kids, and a buddy system is encouraged for older kids and teens, too.

yellow school busIf you will be driving or if they will be driving themselves, be sure the vehicle is checked for safety (working brakes, lights, windshield wipers, and more) and that you’ve gone over safe driving practices. Set a firm rule that if your teen is behind the wheel, their phone needs to be put away and they should not reach for it until they are parked. It’s also a good idea to be clear on the rules for who can or cannot ride with them when they are driving.  

If your child will be riding with a friend, make sure you know who they are riding with and how to reach them in an emergency. Remind your child that they can wait at school and call you if they ever feel uncomfortable getting in the car with someone. 

For students who take the bus, make sure they know their bus number and route, where their bus stops, and not to hurry across the road without a safe crossing, even if they are running late. Remind them to listen to the bus driver and obey the rules of the bus. Younger kids should have adults walk them to and from the bus stop. 

Being Ready to Learn 

Learning isn’t easy to do when you’re hungry, tired, or otherwise struggling with basic needs. 

Help your child be ready to learn by making sure they: 

  • Eat a healthy breakfast. This will fuel them up to focus. Kids who are growing fast or who are particularly active with sports or other physical activity may need a little extra fuel. Protein and healthy fats or carbohydrates are good for breakfast. Think eggs, milk, yogurt, nuts, fruit, whole grains, and more. You can prep food a day or two before to make it easy, like homemade breakfast burritos you can pull from the fridge or freezer and heat up. 
  • Have a plan for lunch. Whether they are bringing a meal or getting it at school, make sure your child or teen has a plan for lunch. Skipping lunch or eating junk food instead of something healthy can have them dragging by the end of the day. Lunch is a good time to refuel with things like fruits, vegetables, and maybe a classic sandwich featuring lean meat like turkey or chicken, or some fruit jam and nut butter.  
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Bedtime routines are important for school-age kids. Younger kids may do well with routines like a warm bath followed by a bedtime story, while older kids may have their own routines but need reminders to leave their cell phones outside of their sleeping space and go to bed with at least 9 hours left before their morning alarm will go off. 
  • Unplug for a while to decompress. Help kids and teens reduce stress by setting aside time each day to unplug and unwind. Put phones away, turn off the television, and spend some time away from homework or other stressors. This could be done over the dinner table as a family, or with some quiet time to read, draw, write or listen to music.  

Back-to-School check-ups 

Before school or within the first few weeks, you should see about getting your child in for a regular check-up. Insured children and teens (up to age 20) in Washington get a free health checkup every year. Those without health coverage can go to or call 1-855-923-4633 for assistance in getting insurance. 

pediatric doctor appointmentThere are many reasons to keep up with routine healthcare visits. They are a chance to ask questions and catch potential concerns early. Early intervention is immensely helpful in many types of medical complications. Kids who aren’t feeling well or are struggling with an undiagnosed health problem will likely find it harder to learn and enjoy school. 

Your child may need a sports physical, too. Getting this done early can save hassle. If they are going to start a new sport or season, they’ll need that check-up. Allow a few weeks before the season starts to make sure you can schedule it in time. 

Routine visits also are a perfect opportunity to check with your child’s healthcare provider on immunizations. There are a number of immunizations that are required for school and/or child care, as well as others that are recommended to help keep your children safe from preventable illnesses. 

Here’s what Dr. James Lewis, the Snohomish Health District Health Officer, has to share: 

Childhood immunizations have protected young people from preventable diseases for decades. We see few cases of potentially severe illnesses such as polio, measles, mumps, tetanus, and whooping cough because most children are vaccinated against them. 

Childhood immunizations are important right now as families prepare their children to return to child care, school, sports, clubs, and so many other activities where they will be around other children. On top of this, immunizations are more important than previous school years because COVID-19 disrupted life-saving vaccination at a global level, putting millions at risk for catching diseases like measles, meningitis, whooping cough, and even polio. Currently polio has been found to be present in wastewater in New York and transmission of poliovirus is believed to have been ongoing there for months. This is possible because of the immunization disruption that has occurred during the pandemic. Without “catching up” on these important vaccinations, we are putting ourselves, our children and our communities at risk for potential outbreaks of these completely preventable and potentially serious illnesses.  

The recommended vaccination schedule for children in the U.S. should be followed to ensure children and the wider community have the best protection possible. All children in Washington State can get recommended vaccines at no cost up until their 19th birthday. Healthcare providers may charge an office visit fee, but pediatric patients who cannot afford the fee still can be vaccinated at no cost. Parents and caregivers with questions about childhood immunizations should talk to their child’s healthcare provider to make sure their questions are addressed and that they are getting reliable information.

Four more reminders for children and teens 

kids running to schoolThere can be a lot going on in the bustle of back-to-school season. Remember that the school year doesn’t just come with classes and activities, though those are important. It also means children and teens are growing up, building new relationships, learning about themselves, and encountering new opportunities and challenges. It’s worth making some time to go over a few reminders: 

  1. “You can talk to me.” If your child isn’t feeling well, if something scared or upset them at school, if a friend or acquaintance said or did something that makes them worry for their friend’s or their own safety – whatever the case, your child should know that they can talk to you. If they are not comfortable talking to you about something, encourage them to bring concerns to another adult they trust.  
  2. “You can do hard things.” Sometimes, as adults, we forget how challenging school can be even at a young age. Kids may feel overwhelmed by schoolwork, upset by social situations or changing friendships, frustrated with something they can’t quite master, or challenged to balance their education, friends, family, hobbies and more. Be their biggest supporter. Remind them that they are capable, and they can accomplish their goals and overcome challenges. 
  3. “You matter.” Children and teens may struggle with mental health. There could be battles happening for them or their friends that you don’t see on the surface. It’s important that your child knows they matter to you, they matter to their friends, and they matter to their community. You never know when they may need to hear that. 
  4. “You can say no.” Help your children and teens build confidence in saying “no.” This applies to many situations. As children and teens grow up, they may find themselves feeling pressured to try alcohol or drugs, get more physically intimate than they are ready for, or generally go somewhere or do something they aren’t comfortable with. Being able to say “no” with confidence may make all the difference. The strength to say no also is crucial for themselves. They are allowed to say no to overloading or criticizing themselves. Help them learn to set boundaries and build themselves up. 

Take some time now to check off the “R” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. Are your kids ready for school? 

For learning to be as successful as possible, children and teens need to be safe and healthy.