Getting back into the routine of school can be hard for both students and their parents or caregivers. Most kids feel nervous on the first day back. The change in school schedules during the COVID-19 pandemic could make students feel even more wobbly. Start preparing a couple weeks before school to be ready. Eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise help teens be at their best.1

Get bedtimes and routines back on track. A couple of weeks before school starts, help your teen push bedtime back by 15 minutes each night. Experts suggest teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep. But only seven teens out of 10 get the right amount of sleep.2 Talk with your teen about the value of sleep, including its impact on mental health.

Try to set limits together about the use of technology and light exposure before bed. You may both decide it’s best to keep electronics out of the bedroom. If mealtimes or other routines have changed, help your teen reset those, too. You might want to add a little extra time in the morning before school for any extra stress.
Encourage your teen to eat right and stay fit. Help them choose healthy breakfasts and lunches to help with mood and focus, and remind them to limit junk food. AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC) enrollees can take virtual healthy cooking classes at no cost. To see our monthly schedule, visit

Exercise can help your teen focus, raise self-esteem, and improve mood. Being active can help your teen sleep and feel better.1

Find ways to bond and connect. Be present. Often teens will want to talk after their school day, but it may take them a while to open up. Walks, car rides, and meals together are chances to connect. You might grab any chance you get to exercise with your teen! Notes tucked into book bags or cheerful text messages can also help get your teen through the day.

Make sure your teen knows you are ready and willing to talk with them if they have concerns about school, relationships, or other parts of their life.

If your child could use further help, AmeriHealth Caritas DC offers enrollees ages 13 – 20 access to MindRight, a behavioral health service that can help give support by text. Whenever they need it, teen enrollees can get guidance and emotional support on their smartphones to help them navigate the challenges they face each day. AmeriHealth Caritas DC offers MindRight at no cost to enrollees. To sign up for MindRight or learn about other behavioral health services, enrollees can call Enrollee Services at 202-408-4720 or 1-800-408-7511.

Make sure your teen has a healthy school-life balance, with time for homework and personal time, time with friends, clubs, sports, and other activities.

Help is available now.

The D.C. Department of Behavioral Health Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-888-793-4357.

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide or having a mental health emergency, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 18002738255.


Best Me: Back-to-school checkups

Summer is a great time to get teens and other kids ready for the upcoming school year by scheduling wellness checkups.

Yearly checkups help your child’s health care provider find and treat any health conditions your teen may have before they become worse. During a checkup, your teen will get physical, behavioral, dental, hearing, and eyesight screenings, as well as any vaccines they need. If your teen is an AmeriHealth Caritas DC enrollee, you can find a provider by going to or by calling Enrollee Services at 1-800-408-7511. AmeriHealth Caritas DC enrollees under age 21 can get yearly checkups at no cost. Enrollees can get rides to and from health care visits at no cost by calling 1-800-315-3485.

Healthy mouths

Your teen is assigned a primary dental provider, or PDP, when they become an AmeriHealth Caritas DC enrollee. Having a PDP lets your teen form a relationship with one dentist whom they visit regularly. This also helps the dentist better know your teen’s dental care needs.

Checkups at school

Seven high schools in the District of Columbia have school-based health centers (SBHCs). These clinics provide primary care, dental care, and behavioral health services for students at these schools and children of students. There is no cost to students or their children to get care at an SBHC. To enroll your teen in their school’s SBHC, fill out the SBHC Consent Form found at

1. “Back to School Mental Wellness: Tips for Parents/Caregivers of Teens,” Mass Public Health Blog,

2. “Sleep in Middle and High School Students,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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