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Back to School: Part 3: High School. YMC Physicians offer helpful advice

Yankton, SD —The time has arrived. Many students have been anxiously waiting to start their last four years of school. They can now refer to themselves as “freshman, sophomore, junior or senior”. Back to School time as a high school student looks a lot different than other ages, but there are also similarities. Yankton Medical Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Sara Pepper says this is the time for students to take the lead and prepare for their next steps. She suggests, “It’s important to stay organized as school starts and throughout the year. High school comes with more responsibility and independent learning in the form of assignments, tests, group projects and activities. It can be easy to lose track of deadlines so find a way that works for you to keep track of important dates, including extracurricular activities. Utilize technology to your advantage in the form of reminders and scheduling.”


The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers some tips for helping your high school student. As with all students, they are more alert and do better in class if they start the day with a good breakfast and maintain good sleep schedules. It’s also important for students to do more at school so they’ll have less to do at home. AAP suggests high school students take advantage of study periods or any other time they are not in class during the school day. It’s a great time to review notes and get a head start on homework. Dr. Pepper agrees, adding “You are ultimately responsible for ensuring you complete your work on time. Your teachers are available if you need extra help or direction – don’t be afraid to reach out to them if you don’t understand something. Your parents are available for support but may not be able to assist you as much as they have previously as the content increases in complexity.”


This is the time when students can pick classes of interest to explore their passions or develop new skills. What an exciting time! Staying true to their values and passions will help students figure out who they are and who they want to be. Parents and students alike should recognize that is totally OK.


In addition to the “freedom” high school students experience to make their own choices, comes some extra safety tips and precautions. Most high school students are driving and unfortunately many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. Remind your teens to wear their seat belt, limit the number of passengers; do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations (even when using hands free devices on speaker phone), texting, or other mobile device to prevent driver distraction.


It’s important for students and families to prioritize your mental health. The coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the mental health of many teenagers. Thirty-seven percent of students at high schools experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. Dr. Pepper adds, “High school brings many challenges academically, but also emotionally. With the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in mental health concerns in teenagers. Keeping an open line of communication with your teen and ensuring they know it’s ok to not be ok and assisting them in seeking help when needed is vital.  That help may come from a guidance counselor, licensed therapist, trusted adult. Your child’s pediatrician is another good place to start as they know your child and your child’s medical history.”


Dr. Elizabeth Nicholas, Family Medicine Physician at Yankton Medical Clinic, also offers these words for high school students and their families. “High school goes fast, and many students start Freshmen year with their eyes already set on graduation. However, I want to encourage students to enjoy their years in high school and make the most of them. It’s not always easy, but it most certainly is worth it. Have fun, study hard, and get involved! For parents and caregivers, I want to provide reassurance that both the physical and mental health of their student is important to us at the clinic. As teenagers transition from their pediatrician to a family medicine provider, rest assured we have your child’s medical records, and we work together to make your child’s journey a safe and healthy one. Also please remember we are here for the whole family, both students and their families. Please reach out to Yankton Medical Clinic for all your family’s healthcare needs! We will work together to help improve the health and well-being of everyone in your family.”





Resources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2021 report, US News and World Report “Ten Tips for high school freshman”.