Masks, symptoms screens and social distancing—this year’s back-to-school routine might feel a little surreal. While staying healthy in the fall is always a priority, in 2020 it’s more important than ever.

Here are some of Newburyport Family Practice’s top tips for parents to keep your families feeling physically and mentally well this year.

Hand Hygiene

Washing hands is among the top ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus as well as more familiar flus and colds. Many local schools require that students wash their hands at least 5 times a day. Make sure your child knows proper handwashing technique and is washing his or her hands for long enough—memorizing a 20-second tune to hum never hurts, like “Happy Birthday” twice! 

After children get home from school, ensure they’re washing their hands first thing when they get in the door. Consider setting up a visual reminder to make sure it doesn’t slip their minds—if you keep a whiteboard or chalkboard in your kitchen, a quick message can go a long way, especially if your kids are getting home before you are.

Many local schools are also providing hand sanitizer in every classroom and at entrances and exits. But it doesn’t hurt to give your child an extra, portable sanitizer just in case. Make sure to talk with them about proper coughing and sneezing posture, too.

Socialize in a Safe Way

When the stress of back-to-school combines with the stress of COVID-19, life can begin to feel overwhelming. You and your family might find yourselves staying inside more, spending nights in front of the TV, eating more comfort food or missing socialization.

These responses are natural. But over time, skipping out on friends, fresh air, and exercise can affect mental and physical health, for kids as well as adults. Prioritize your well-being this fall by taking time to care for yourself and seeking out safe social interaction.

That might mean taking a social-media break or planning time for outdoor exercise. A family walk around the neighborhood can be a great, safe way to connect with your kids and be more active. You’ll also want to find a “bubble”—a group of trusted people you can physically meet with—to bolster your mental health.

Keep Up with the Small things: Healthy Eating, Exercise, and Sleep

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your family’s immune systems strong. As school picks up and the fall becomes more hectic, make sure not to forget about the small steps you and your family can take to stay healthy.

When it comes to baseline health, finding a stable routine is key. Consider planning your week ahead of time. What meals will you make for dinner? Are you and your kids finding time to exercise? What time will you be going to bed?

Setting aside time to de-stress is also important. Planning a fun night together—whether it’s watching a movie, playing a board game or baking—can act as an important valve for pent-up anxiety in a busy week. 

These details are especially important for kids. Recent research suggests that many kids are having trouble sleeping and facing greater-than-normal levels of anxiety during the pandemic. There’s no magic pill to address this issue—but healthy meals, regular exercise, and proactive self-care can go a long way. Take time to communicate with your kids; ask them directly about their mental and physical health to ward off problems before they arise.

Don’t Forget Flu Shots and Physicals

Like clockwork, New England autumns bring cool weather, gorgeous leaves, football games—and the flu.

In 2020, it’s more important than ever before to get your flu shot early. Flu vaccinations will help reduce the risk of a potential viral “double threat” this fall and winter season.

Don’t skip out on your annual physical, either. Though non-essential doctor’s visits were limited at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s important not to wait too long between check-ups, especially for growing kids. Newburyport Family Practice has remained open during this pandemic to provide personalized care for our patients as needed. An annual physical is essential to your child’s development, so book one soon if it’s been a year or more.

You can make an appointment today to get your children’s flu shots and physicals at Newburyport Family Practice.