Fellow parents, congratulations. You've survived another summer and are ready (so very ready) to settle into the routine that a new school year provides. But just because you've purchased the required school supplies and replenished the lunch accounts doesn't mean your back-to-school to-do list is complete. Mayo Clinic family medicine physician Elizabeth Cozine, M.D., says you also may want to schedule a visit with your child's primary care provider to ensure that your child is physically and mentally ready for another year of new experiences.
"Any time there's a life transition it's a stressful event," Dr. Cozine tells Mayo Clinic Radio hosts Tracy McCray and Tom Shives, M.D., during a recent taping of the program. "That goes for a kid going from preschool to kindergarten, maybe it's their first school experience, or a kid going to middle school, which is another life transition, and heading off to college."
Helping our kids make each of those life transitions, Dr. Cozine says, begins with letting them know the corresponding anxiety they're feeling is normal. "Human beings like routines, and so when your routine is a little bit upended, that's stressful," she says. "So acknowledging that sometimes the way a five-year-old manages stress is by acting kind of badly, a teenager might do the same thing."
Dr. Cozine says the start of each school year is also a good time for primary care providers to take a deeper dive into the overall mental health of teens and those entering college — without the uncomfortableness of their parents being in the same room. "My policy is that once a kid is 12 or 13, I absolutely kick the parents out of the room," she says. "That gives them an opportunity to talk about something that they might not be super excited to discuss with their moms and dads."
Once a child turns 13, Dr. Cozine says, depression screening comes into play. "We start routinely with their 13-year well-child visits" she says. The PHQ9M, a standardized screening for depression, helps providers "get an idea about whether or not a teen is struggling with their mood."
Another important back-to-school consideration is making sure kids are up-to-date on all vaccinations. "In older kids there are standard immunizations before kindergarten and the next set of standard immunizations, other than annual flu shots, are at about age 11," Dr. Cozine says.
One of those, she tells Mayo Clinic Radio, is the HPV immunization, which she says can — and should — be given as early as age 9. The virus "causes cervical cancer and genital warts, and we know more and more head and neck cancers are also related to HPV," Dr. Cozine says. "I tell people this is not about sexual activity, this is actually a cancer immunization," she says. "It's very effective, it works, and they also have a better immune response [to the vaccine] the younger they are."
There's much more for parents to consider as the school year begins, of course. And you can watch and listen to Dr. Cozine talk about it all right here. Then school us with your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.