Back to School Health Tips

August 21, 2013 Christen Oskouian, MD

The last days of summer are counting down!  Here are some timely tips to help ensure the school year goes well.

To and From School Safety:

  • The school bus is a great way for children to get to school.  To ensure safety, make sure young children are supervised at bus stops.  Parents trust bus drivers to keep our kids safe, therefore it is very important for children to know and follow bus safety rules.
  • Carpooling?  Buckle up!  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in a booster until the seat belt fits correctly, typically when they are 4’9” (age 8-12). Use the seat belt fit test to determine if your child still needs a booster. (For safety reasons, it is against the law in Washington for a child under 13 to ride in the front seat.)  

  • Supervise young children and make sure well-fitted helmets are worn when riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard.  And, don’t forget to review pedestrian safety rules for when they are commuting.

  • In case of unforeseen circumstances, ensure your child knows your phone number and address.  An ID with this information in your child’s backpack can be helpful in case of emergency.  (A review of “stranger danger” is also a good idea.)


  • Provide your children with healthy, energy-fueling meals.  Breakfast is important to get the day started right.  Provide a healthy lunch (or school-provided lunch) and a nutritious snack.  Family dinners are a great way to offer more nutritious foods, debrief about everyone’s day, connect as a family, and they have been shown to help curb obesity. (Click here for some  dietary recommendations.)

Staying Healthy:

  • Encourage your children to maintain an active lifestyle to keep their bodies strong.  Even if your child is not athletic, encourage active play every day.
  • Ensure your child has received all of the recommended vaccines for his or her age.   Annual influenza (flu) shots are recommended for all children.  Flu shots prevent 70-90% of influenza and therefore can prevent missed days of school/parents work. 
  • Hand washing is an important element of disease prevention.  Alcohol hand gels kill most bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  When you need to tackle grime, hand washing is better every time!


  • Summertime sleep patterns are luxurious and hard to break.  A week or two prior to school, start slowly transitioning your children to their school-night bedtime.  To determine the appropriate time, consider the time your child needs to wake up and the amount of sleep they need for their age: 

Age 5-12:  10-12 hours per day
Age 13-18:  8-9 hours per day

  • Ensuring adequate sleep helps your child perform to his or her full potential, athletically, intellectually, and socially!


  • Find time every day to talk to your child about how their day went.  Ask about things that may be making him/her anxious or down, problems with peers, or difficulties in the classroom.  Support your child through any challenges he or she may face.
  • It is also helpful to also maintain an open line of communication with your child’s teacher.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help if your child is struggling - there are resources that may be available through your school or your child’s doctor, but you have to ask. 

Here are some additional resources for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

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