(The Daily Dish) As we’re getting ready to send our kids back to school and observe Immunization Awareness Month in August, Dr. Christopher Valentine from OptumCare is ready to share some tips and information on making sure our children are prepared to have a happy, healthy school year.

Laws vary state-to-state, of course, but here in Utah, as in most places, before returning to school, our kids need to have certain vaccinations. Influenza, Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio are some of the most widely known.

The human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine is also recommended for kids ages 11-18, or sometimes earlier, if your doctor recommends it based upon certain health or other conditions that may put them at greater risk.

The same is true for the meningococcal vaccines, which protect against meningitis. Kids should get their first dose between 11 and 18 years of age. Also, if your child isn’t up-to-date on their chickenpox vaccination, that’s usually recommended, as well.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone ages six months and up and boosters are also now recommended for everyone five years and older. By vaccinating your eligible children, you’re giving them the best chance to avoid serious illness if they contract the virus.

Vaccinating, and knowing others are vaccinating their children, as well, can also give you greater confidence in allowing your kids to participate in school and after-school activities.

Evidence is also indicating even if your child has contracted the virus, vaccination provides added protection, though you should delay the next dose until three months after the start of symptoms or getting positive test results. Also, CDC has determined kids and teenagers can get both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine, at the same time.

Medical tips as children are preparing to go back to school:

  • If your child is sick, don’t send them to school. Monitor their symptoms.
  • And have a plan for what you’ll do if they do get sick before it happens. Make sure you know where your local testing sites are, or that you’ve gotten some at-home tests, just to be prepared.
  • It’s a great idea just to practice good hygiene habits generally, too. Handwashing, brushing their teeth, observing social distance from those with symptoms of illness. All these things will help keep us all safe.

Aside from contracting the virus itself, the pandemic has had an impact on our kids in psychological and emotional ways. The challenges they’re facing are wholly unique to our times and can be difficult to manage.

According to the CDC, when kids face trauma during their developmental ages, that trauma can have long-term consequences. But there are ways we can support our kids during emotional, social, and mental challenges.

  • First, learn to recognize behavioral changes or difficult emotions. Excessive worry or sadness, unhealthily eating or sleep habits, or trouble paying attention or concentrating—at home or in school—are all signs of elevated stress in children.
  • If your children are struggling with these things, you can help them cope by reassuring them they’re safe and taken care of, giving honest and accurate information when they ask, and maintaining a normal routine as much as possible.
  • Finally, and just as importantly as anything, talk, listen, and encourage your kids to share what they’re feeling.

In addition, make sure you’re seeing your pediatrician or primary care physician regularly, and keeping up with required immunizations and recommended wellness checkup schedules. Help your kids maintain healthy eating habits and engage in physical activity to increase their well-being. Social connection is key for kids, too, so reach out to friends, family, and others and encourage social interaction.

Finally, model the behavior you want your kids to follow. Eat right, and they’re more likely to eat right. Wash your hands often, and they’ll do the same. Our kids look up to us, and they model a lot of their behaviors after us.

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