The first day of school normally brings butterflies of excitement, paired with the thrill of wearing new shoes or clothes for the first time and the joy of brand new school supplies. This year, the normal excitement is tempered by an unprecedented situation. Instead of just wondering if they will have their best friend in any of their classes or if they will have to sit alphabetically in the lunchroom, kids are worried about getting sick and possibly losing someone they love to a virus without a proven treatment or a known cure.
Thankfully, as a parent, there are ways for you to ease their fears and create a sense of wellbeing for your kids, even amid the chaos and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. We at Montgomery County Emergency Communication are happy to help you make going back to school a little easier with these tips from Hackensack Meridian Health:
Communication and Acknowledgment is Key
The medical community is assessing and reassessing the risk for children to contract, share and die from COVID-19. However, right now, much is unknown. Therefore, it’s important to be honest with your kids and tell them that you understand their fear (if they are frightened) but outline the precautionary steps your child’s school is taking. Help them understand that these rules and regulations that their school is enforcing are designed to keep them safe. It’s also important to explain that school will not look the same this year, at least not at first, anyway. Therefore, they have to change how they behave with other kids. They can’t run up to their buddy and give them a big huge hug, instead they stand back and wave. That sort of thing. Then, get them ready for any rules they will have to follow pertaining to virus containment. Speaking of which…
Practice Mask Wearing
If you ask medical professionals, who are old hats at wearing protective gear, you will likely hear that mask wearing is acquired. Your kid isn’t going to understand all the rules pertaining to their mask or be accustomed to wearing one. Therefore, weeks before school starts, it’s a good idea to “practice” mask wearing. How to put it on and take it off safely and what not to do when wearing it, such as touching it, sliding it down under their nose etc. Bottom line, you train them on how to wear a mask and let them get through the awkward phase of wearing a mask at home, with your help. This will be one less thing they have to think about when they return to school. Wearing a mask won’t be a big deal anymore for them, so they can focus on other things.
Help Them Understand Sharing Isn’t Good, At Least Right Now
It’s understandably confusing for kids, especially younger ones, who have been told their entire lives that sharing is caring and an important part of being a good friend or classmate. However, this year, that all changes. Kids need to not share their pencils, pens, color pencils, crayons or anything else with other kids. Schools desperately want to minimize communional use of anything, which in a classroom setting is most often school supplies. Therefore, tell your kids that at least for right now, they need to keep their school supplies to themselves. If they are worried about friends who might not have enough supplies, offer to purchase another set of pencils or crayons for them to give their friend, instead of sharing their own.
Handwashing is Still Important
We hear it every cold and flu season, and it’s still immensely important. One of the best ways to protect your child from the virus is teaching them to wash their hands properly. Make sure they wash for at least 20 seconds at a time with soap and water. Go over this before school as a reminder.
Above and beyond these practical tips on what to do to help your child deal with the risk of COVID when returning to school, make sure you are checking in on them emotionally. Find out if they are okay. Are they handling the changes well, etc. Make sure they know they can come to you with any questions or concerns. That is the most important way for you to help your child adjust, being there for them, always.