Back to school can be a hectic time for both families and children. This time of year in particular, to-do lists can really begin piling up. There are school supplies and new clothing to buy, trips to the barber or salon, and doctor visits to schedule. The last item is especially vital, and can sometimes be forgotten about until the last minute.

“These visits are important, and it’s important to get a physical before school starts,” says Anne LaPorte, a family doctor with Kaiser Permanente.

Because vaccine exemptions have changed this year in Washington State, providers are experiencing a lot of last-minute calls related to questions and to make appointments. The professionals at Kaiser Permanente advocate that parents should get their children in as early as they can prior to the beginning of the school year.

Back to school checkups
Besides receiving necessary immunizations, a back to school check focuses on your child’s all around health. Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

Anne stressed the importance of having your child’s immunization records in place, before seeing your healthcare provider. Doing so can be helpful and make the appointment run a bit smoother. It’s also important to have questions prepared beforehand about the immunizations your child may be scheduled to receive as well as any other questions you may have about your child’s health.

“It’s important to keep in mind health history and immunization history when your child is going in for a physical,” Anne explains.

While there are different types of physicals that a child can get, such as one needed for playing on an athletic team, a sports physical isn’t a substitute for a back to school physical. One reason for this is because sports related physicals tend to put more of the focus on exercise-specific questions, nutrition, training, or athletic abilities and repairing sports related injuries. A back to school physical or annual well-child visit will focus on your child’s overall well-being, such as growth, physical health and more.

“Annual physical exams give the provider a chance to fully examine your child and allows them to spend a lot more time on preventative care.”

Kaiser Permanente Kids Health
Set your child up for success this school year by dedicating a space where kids can do homework free of distractions. Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

Anne went on to add that annual physicals become more important as kids age into adolescence, especially since concerns like social media bullying and mental health are topics discussed in a physical. Another issue that gets touched on during a back to school physical, no matter the child’s age, is preparing for a return to school sleep and eating routines.

Bedtime regimens tend to fall off with summer thanks to extended daylight hours and other factors like family vacations. Getting back into a bedtime routine can be a challenge when school starts again, but it doesn’t have to be. Ideally, Anne recommends implementing a regular bedtime schedule two weeks prior to the start of the school year. 

Another thing that kids can get out of the habit of doing during summer is healthier eating. Plan for success with your children’s eating habits by re-establishing a healthy eating routine involving regular meals and snacks two weeks before school starts.

Something else for families to keep in mind is that there can be years when there is a large transition with kids, such as when they’re going from grade school to middle school or middle school to high school.

“It can be challenging, but I advise parents to be present and make more time with kids after school for that first week after a large transition time, if it’s possible,” Anne recommends.

Kaiser Permanente Kids healthy snacks
Kids can get out of the habit of healthy eating during summer. Re-establish healthy eating habits two weeks before the school year starts. Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

Another tip that can help kids get back into the routine, or help with adjusting to a transition, is helping them pick out some organizational items. Letting kids pick out their own planner or a new folder can help them feel more excited about their transition process.

Other ways to set your child up for success, especially early on in the school year, is to create a quiet space in the home. Pick a spot where there’s no TV on or distractions, and have your child use that space for homework at a directed time each day. Additionally, having a discussion with kids and teens prior to school starting about how they’ll use time management around technology and social media can add to their success this coming school year.

To find out more about vaccines visit the Kaiser Permanente immunizations page, or the Centers for Disease Control’s vaccines and immunizations page for a schedule chart. For further tips on ways to get in the back to school routine before school begins, visit the Kaiser Permanente health blog.

To find out more information about well-child visits, or to find a doctor, visit Kaiser Permanente’s website.