Pre-K, Kindergarten Wellness Checks: What To Expect
By: Pamela Ann Ponce, MD
It’s finally happened. Your kiddo is about to make the leap to preschool.
You may already have bought a backpack, a lunchbox, school supplies and maybe some new clothes.
But have you scheduled a physical exam with your pediatrician? If you haven’t, now is the time.
Florida law requires most students entering public and private schools for the first time to get an exam within 12 months of enrolling.
Parents or guardians must have a qualified health-care provider fill out a form that certifies the exam was completed and is submitted to the school.
In most cases you’ll also need a qualified provider to certify that your child has the immunizations required to attend school.
And believe it or not, there’s no time to waste. Even though the current school year isn’t quite over, the start of Florida’s new school year is only about three months away!
Why Exams Are Important
Even if your child has been getting regular checkups since birth, the exam for going to school is important.
Entering school is a big adjustment, and kids need to be at their best, physically and emotionally, to thrive.
Your health-care provider will check a variety of factors related to your child’s physical well-being, including:
- How is their weight, hearing and vision?
- Is your child eating well?
- Is your child sleeping well?
- How well are they able to communicate? They may be able to ask for a sandwich but can they express how he feels about starting school?
- Do they appear to have any allergies?
- How is potty training coming along?
Checking Emotional Progress
It’s also important for your provider to understand where your child is emotionally and socially. Kids and parents need to be prepared for the changes school life can bring, such as:
- Frustration from being on a new schedule or routine.
- Fatigue from a long day, particularly if your child is accustomed to naps.
- Distress or anxiety brought on by fear of the unknown.
Parents should be prepared to help their kids deal with these emotions. One way is to develop strategies for teasing out information.
Instead of asking open-ended questions, such as, “How was your day,” try more specific questions like, “Tell me three things you liked about your day and one thing you would change.”
Preparing for the Checkup
You can help your child’s health-care provider by coming to checkups armed with information and questions.
- If you’re seeing a new provider, bring the child’s immunization records. Also have a complete list of medications your child is taking, including frequency and dosage. Don’t forget to include information about any vitamins or supplements your child is taking.
- Tell your pediatrician about any physical issues your child is experiencing. That could be anything from digestive issues to problems sleeping.
- Think about any emotional issues your child has displayed, like excessive worry or fears.
- Talk to your provider about how much screen time your child is getting, time spent in front of TV, tablets or other devices.
- Tell your provider how much physical activity your child gets each day.
Health-care providers are much better able to assess your child’s health if you are an active participant in the checkup.
It also helps parents and children to establish a long-term relationship with a provider, who is better able to track changes and help ensure that a child is physically and emotionally equipped to get the most out of school.