Ask the Pediatrician: Your back-to-school questions, answered
Measles outbreak prompts change in vaccine rule
Q: I heard the state changed requirements for MMR vaccinations. Can you explain that and is there anything I need to do about it?
A: In response to the recent measles outbreak, the Washington state Legislature passed a law that ended the “philosophical exemption” to the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine required of children attending schools or day cares. Families who had used that exemption will need to get vaccinated and provide their children’s updated immunization records to their schools.
Most children, however, are up-to-date on vaccinations and won’t need to take any action. You can expect schools will be looking closely at student immunization records following the new law and you may receive a request for updated records.
Addressing new-school anxiety
Q: We recently moved, prompting a change in schools, and now my usually enthusiastic second-grader seems very worried about the start of the school year. How can I support him?
A: It’s perfectly normal that your child is anxious about a new school. It can be a very hard transition to get used to new schedules, new spaces, new kids, new expectations. You can take a few steps now to make it a little less unknown, and that should lessen your child’s anxiety.
Consider taking your child to the new school. If it’s open, walk through the halls, pointing to the spaces where second-grade classes will be. Show him the lunchroom, library and playground. Point to where he will catch his bus home from school or meet you at the end of the day. If you can, introduce him to a teacher or principal. By making the new school more familiar, children feel less anxiety about the unknown.
Many schools have new-student picnics, playdates, or back-to-school events. These are a great way to meet a few people, too. And remind your child that many students feel anxious. Teachers are there to help, and he should talk to a teacher if he has questions.`
Switching from summer to 'school' mode
Q: My seventh-grader has been staying up until 11 p.m. all summer. I’ve tried to move up his bedtime, but he just sits in his room playing video games until he’s sleepy. Is there a trick to getting an earlier bedtime to stick?
A: Ooof, I hear you, parents! It is so hard to get kids used to earlier bedtimes (and earlier wake-up times!) The key here is to keep the changes gradual. Most experts recommend moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. Re-establish the routines of set and predictable steps of what happens before bedtime.
The video games may be part of the problem. Sleep experts say that turning off screens 30 minutes before bedtime is necessary to calm our minds. I recommend no screens in the bedroom at all, since they can be tempting.
Dr. Susanna Block is a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. Join Dr. Block and Seattle's Child managing editor Sydney Parker as they discuss more back-to-school topics on Facebook live stream. Submit questions and topics live and get your questions answered by Dr. Block on the spot! Tune in on Facebook at 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 28.