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Getting ready for a new school year can be exciting for children, parents and caregivers. But it also can be stressful and scary. Whether kids are heading to school for the first time or moving to a new school, it is common to be nervous when facing change.
"It's important to let our kids know that it's really normal to feel this way," says Dr. Marcie Billings, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician. "Just try to support your kids and let them talk through their fears, talk through their challenges that they're dealing with. And don't think that you need every answer. It's really just about listening."
Another common concern for parents is mental health and wellness and preparing their children to deal with the challenges of a new school year.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that this is now the third school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and students will need to understand masking and vaccination recommendations to help navigate the classroom setting as safely as possible.
In addition to COVID-19 vaccinations, it is important to make sure children are up to date on other childhood immunizations, including preparing to get a flu shot as soon as it is available this fall.
"Being vaccinated against COVID-19 and current on all childhood vaccinations is a really important part to returning to school safely," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases physician.
Dr. Rajapakse points out that masking recommendations may differ by school and region based on levels of transmission, but children who choose to wear masks should be supported by staff and other students.
"There are certain children, for example, children with weakened immune systems or children who have people in their family with a weakened immune system, who may still choose to mask even if community transmission is low," explains Dr. Rajapakse. "I think it's important to recognize that anyone who wants to wear a mask in an indoor setting should be supported in doing so."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, "Ask the Mayo Mom" host Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician in Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, is joined by Dr. Billings and Dr. Rajapakse for a discussion on back to school topics, including COVID-19, monkeypox, mental health in kids and teens, nutrition and sleep.
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