Back To School Homework For Parents: Keeping Kids Healthy

OTCSafetySince my son is a toddler and already goes to preschool during the mornings, I have been going through my summer thinking that the idea of “back to school” time would not mean much to us.

But then I realized that my son would actually be moving to a new class. With a new set of teachers. In a new classroom.

When I was a teacher myself, I loved the rhythms of the school year: the poignant good-byes to my class at the start of summer, the long and leisurely months of mentally preparing myself for a new class, and then the fresh start of a new class and a new year.

I never gave much thought to the emotional perspective of parents (and their hard work) in this whole process of change and fresh starts. I would be touched when sometimes it was the parents who were sadder to leave my class at the end of the school year. They would have a look of fear and wistfulness when they thanked me for the school year and wished me a good summer.

Now I get it.

I love my son’s preschool teacher. He loves her. He loves the routines and his classmates. The transition to getting used to a whole new set of people (and to preschool itself) was a nightmare last fall. Now we have to do it again.

So now I know how much work parents actually do to get their kids ready for a new year. And much of it is not about buying new backpacks and school supplies. It’s about making sure that your child will be emotionally and physically healthy for the coming school year.

Here are a few items of “homework” for parents that might not be on your back-to-school “to do” lists:

1. Make sure your new school routine includes plenty of sleep. Many kids, even preschoolers, go to bed later in summer. Make sure that your child’s bedtime is early enough so that he or she is getting enough sleep to be healthy and happy at school.

2. Remind (or teach) your kids about hand washing. Your child may have had a whole summer away from his classmates, and he’ll be exposed to a fresh round of germs in his new class. Make it a part of his daily routine to wash his hands when he gets home from school, before he has a snack.

3. Now is a good time to stock up on medications for the coming cough, cold, and flu season. Make sure that your medicine cabinet includes medicines specifically for your child, since a child should never be given adult medications and you’ll be prepared even if it’s the middle of the night. When you’re stocking up, check the labels on the medications that you already have and get rid of expired medicines. Also, be sure that you have proper measuring devices for each medicine that you give your child.  And remind yourself about the facts of how to give medicines safely to kids.

4. Now is also a perfect time to check your child’s vaccinations and be sure that she is up to date. Make an appointment to get the seasonal flu vaccine if your child doesn’t already have a regularly scheduled appointment.

5. Be sure that your child’s classroom is stocked with plenty of tissues, hand sanitizer, and soap throughout the year. Don’t just send in supplies at the start of the year.

I hope you and your families — no matter what your children’s ages — have a healthy start to the school year!

Do you have any tips that I missed for making sure your child is safe and healthy for the fall?

Disclosure:  I receive compensation for my participation in the CHPA educational foundation’s OTC Safety Ambassador program.  However, the content and opinions in  this post are my own.


13 thoughts on “Back To School Homework For Parents: Keeping Kids Healthy”

  1. Love love love your blog! I have a young toddler but am not yet in the swing of the schoolyear stuff – too young for preschool at 16 months. However, this year I’m really thinking about not getting the flu vaccine for either of us…or ever again. I’m very pro-vaccine for almost everything else, but I read about the work of Peter Doshi at Johns Hopkins and am questioning if it is safe and effective to give my daughter this particular vaccine. Here are the two articles I saw: and
    Given your highlighting Emily Oster’s use of economic thinking to re-determine safe behaviors during pregnancy, it reminds me of the same critical thinking. How do we know the flu vaccine works? Just because a doctor told us so? I’m skeptical now. Just a thought!

  2. The only thing I can add is to have plenty of extra patience and understanding. My oldest is going into 3rd grade this year, but for the last 3 years the first 3-4 weeks has brought lots of extra crying, arguments with his brother and sass at home. Drives me crazy.

  3. Great suggestions, Jessica! This is the first summer we have let the bedtimes creep later, so we are working this week on getting them back to a normal bedtime. And I think even my sophomores could use the reminders about hand washing 🙂

  4. Great tips! The new bedtime has been hardest to implement. The kids really fight me on it and it gets worse every year as they are more aware of time. The best thing is kindergarten BEFORE they can tell time. 😉

    1. Yes, in terms of sleep, that’s one redeeming quality of toddlers: you can convince them that it’s bedtime when it’s much earlier. My son has absolutely no concept of time yet, and I guess I should take advantage of that for a while!

  5. The new teacher transition is brutal! I almost forgot how hard that stage is. I appreciate the reminder to stock up on medicine- we almost always need something ASAP when an illness strikes- and one of us almost always has to go to the store. Great tips!

  6. Great post! So glad sleep was #1! Two additional things I would mention: First, as the air gets dryer, it is harder for the airway to clear itself. Be sure to add water to the air with a humidifier or vaporizer (pros and cons to each) during the dry months to prevent (and help treat) illnesses. Saline in the nose also helps– I love nasal washes to prevent and treat illness!

  7. Thanks for the tip! I have a love/hate relationship with my son’s humidifier. I’m pretty sure it might help a bit, but it’s so time-consuming to clean and I worry that I’m still not keeping it clean enough. I’d love to hear more about vaporizers though and the pros/cons of each!

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