Many families had some practice sending their kids back to school in a pandemic last Fall, but other parents were not quite ready for that and continued home schooling. Either way, in this new world of ours which now includes the COVID Delta variant, many are still trying to adjust. Especially children, who, while resilient, certainly had their worlds upended in 2020 … in ways they couldn’t comprehend.
There are many things to put on your checklist during a normal year of sending kids back to school – supplies, physicals, vaccines – but this year, you can probably add a few more.
If you remember only one thing – for younger and older children – it’s to have some patience. And encourage them to have a little patience.
Psychology Today suggests focusing on your kids’ mental wellbeing during a confusing and stressful time for them. Remember your kids mirror your behavior, and if they see you stress, they will too. That’s often easier said than done, but we can all learn from taking a little of our own advice.
For example, now is a great time to teach your kids the power of breathing exercises while reminding yourself to benefit from them as well. It’s a great way to lead into bigger conversations, like how to react to a bully, how to prevent fighting, how to not blow up at your teacher. The kinds of conversations we don’t always remember to have with our kids.
You may want to talk to the school to find out their plans for keeping students safe—not just from COVID-19, but any biological threat they may not be far off. Ask their protocol for regular cleaning in classrooms, bathrooms, hallways, gyms and cafeterias. Schools have likely been asked these questions already and should be ready with a solid plan. Check that your emergency contact information is up to date. And always have a few backup plans in place.
Many children have not yet been vaccinated, so it’s important to remind your kids of the importance of washing, not only their hands, but wiping down electronics, pens and pencils, their locker doors, and anything that gets touched frequently. Arm them with some alcohol wipes that they can discreetly carry in a backpack or pocket and ask about it regularly. And, if they aren’t vaccinated yet, they should wear a mask, and the school may insist on it. Know rules ahead of time.
Remind your kids to avoid touching wherever possible, and athletes should have a plan in place for what to do after any contact sport that might have resumed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have plenty of suggestions for student athletes staying safe, including being aware of students with higher risks of catching the virus. You should also consider, even when your own community is low risk, that students are often asked to travel to other cities to participate in sports. Consider things like the number of students participating in the contact sport, how long they have contact and the age of the players when determining if your child will play. Not all risk is behind us.
If your child does start showing symptoms, follow this guide from Mayo Clinic on when to keep kids home from school:
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Poor appetite
- New loss of taste or smell
- Belly pain
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
If your child is exposed to COVID, have a plan in place to keep the rest of the family safe while the exposed child is home. Have friends or family members on standby to possibly house or care for healthy children during quarantine.
Now is not the time to relax your diligence completely. The virus is still out there and knowing how to handle multiple scenarios is wise.