As the summer break comes to a close, most parents are busy preparing their children and themselves for the start of a new school year. While this transition seems to always sneak up on even the most well planned families, the first day of school doesn’t have to be stressful and chaotic. The Baton Rouge Clinic is here to help.
Why is it important that our children return to in-person learning?
School is not only important from an educational standpoint, but also an emotional, social, and nutritional standpoint as well. Part of childhood development hinges on learning through social interactions, and studies have shown that isolation of children can have detrimental effects on their long term psychological well-being. In addition to this, many children receive services through the school district including various therapies and specialized learning curriculum that cannot be given through online learning. Finally, thousands of children in the Baton Rouge area receive one, if not two, meals per day through their school attendance. These are just a few reasons outside of the education each child desperately needs as to why in-person school is so important.
Groups such as the AAP have released guidelines to help schools implement a school policy that will be as safe as possible for not only the students but also the teachers and staff. This includes wearing face masks, social distancing, grab and go lunches, and frequent hand washing.
Click here for some additional resources and recommendations by the AAP to ensure that students and staff stay safe and healthy this upcoming school year.
With the continued toll that COVID-19 is taking on our community, state, country and world, the pediatricians at The Baton Rouge Clinic, in accordance with the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), encourage those 12 years of age and older to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. For those eligible, this is an important part of staying safe and healthy.
We understand that there are many parents who might be hesitant to vaccinate their pre-teen and teenagers. However, the data we have thus far shows that this vaccine will greatly reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, and additionally, the vaccine has a greater than 90% chance of preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death if a vaccinated individual does become positive for COVID. As recommended by the CDC, those that have been vaccinated and are exposed to someone with COVID-19, quarantine is not necessary as long as the person remains without any symptoms of illness. This will likely be very important for the upcoming school year not only for school attendance but also for extracurricular participation.
We encourage all parents with questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in those 12 and older to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician directly. As we have always done and will continue to do, the pediatricians at The Baton Rouge Clinic are here to partner with parents to ensure the health and wellbeing of children as they grow, and certainly in a time of many questions and concerns regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations, we want to be a part of the discussion.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine from our Pediatricians, please click here.
Is the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine approved for children?
At this time the Pfizer mRNA vaccine is the only Covid-19 vaccine approved in those 12 years of age and older. While the trials with the Moderna mRNA Covid vaccines in those 12-17 years of age have been ongoing, the FDA has not yet authorized the use of the Moderna vaccine in this age group yet. There are now also mRNA Covid vaccine trials starting for the 6 months-11 year age groups as well. These studies will still take some time to be completed.
Wearing Face Masks in School:
On August 4th, 2021, a state-wide mask mandate was issued for ages 5 years and older by the Governor, and it is highly encouraged for those younger ages as well. Studies show that face masks along with social distancing measures, can be the most effective things to slow the spread of this virus. A face mask is important to ensure that an asymptomatic person (meaning a person who has COVID, but does not show any symptoms, and therefore does not think they are sick) is not spreading the virus to others. We have had parents tell us, “There is no way my child will wear a mask.” Well, is that because you THINK they cannot/would not do it or because they really will not? We must remember that children surprise us daily! Children rise to the occasion when they are presented with a challenge all the time. Think of a child wearing a helmet to ride a bike. When the parent sets the expectation, models the behavior, and does not allow bike riding to happen without the helmet, kids will wear the helmet. The same thing when it comes to children wearing a mask; set the expectation, model the behavior, and tell them why it is important. Let children know that they are “superheroes” for wearing their masks to protect other people. Allow them to pick out a mask in their favorite color or print. Give them the opportunity to practice their mask-wearing at home and have special rewards for when they do a good job practicing this skill.
This year may require more preparation to get into school mode but these 7 tips can help:
- Be prepared. Every state has different regulations, and individual school districts may have their own requirements. Find out from school administrators what their safety plans are and whether COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for specific age groups. Read all information sent out, in case there’s anything you need to do ahead of time and so you can prepare kids for what to expect when they get to school.
- Validate fears. The world experienced a collective trauma and it’s normal for people to be anxious about resuming regular activities such as going back to school. Although you might feel some relief that you and your child will be getting back into a routine, recognize that it might not be easy at first for them – or for you. Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities. They may need to talk to a trusted adult about how to keep up social connections safely, or their feelings of boredom, loss, and even guilt.
- Go shopping. This year, more than ever, kids will likely enjoy the tradition of buying school supplies and a few new outfits for the school year. They might even enjoy grocery shopping to select some foods that will make brown-bagging it more exciting.
- Provide structure. Throughout the pandemic and during the summer, sleep cycles and mealtimes may not have been as structured as usual. Don’t wait until the night before school starts to get your child back into a school routine. Gradually adapt to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake times so kids are ready to start school well rested.
- Model positivity. Ask your child open-ended, positive questions about how they’re feeling about school. Instead of “Are you nervous?” try something like “What are you most excited about when school starts?” or “Which of your friends will you be happiest to see?” Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to stay positive and relay consistent messages that a brighter future lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.
- Observe carefully. Watch for signs that your child is struggling. Symptoms of stress include irritability, self-isolation, angry outbursts, changes in appetite and disrupted sleep patterns. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher, in case anything is happening at school that you should be aware of. If you’re unable to manage your child’s anxiety, get help from a school counselor or a mental health professional. Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time.
- Be patient. The pandemic disrupted everyone’s routines and made many people – especially kids – question their safety and security. It may take a little time for people to get comfortable going back to the way things used to be and that’s okay. It took almost a year and a half to get through the pandemic. So you shouldn’t expect to just snap your fingers and have everything feel like it did before it began.
Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember, your pediatrician is here to help.