Healthy kids make happy kids. Happy kids make happy parents. But what do you do when school starts again in the middle of a Pandemic? Whether they’re heading back to school or learning from home, here are six easy ways you can make sure healthy living is part of their daily routine.
This year, “back to school” is taking on a much different tone as some schools open and others prepare for more distance learning. COVID-19 has changed the landscape for parents, educators, and custodial staff –– but especially for children.
Whether parents are sending their kids off to school again, or preparing for a hybrid model where their children divide their time between the school building and home, keeping their kids healthy ads yet another layer of stress to parenthood. Let’s face it: your plate is already full enough as a parent. While there has never been a silver-bullet or magic pill to keep your kids healthy while they’re at school, COVID-19 has thrown parents a curveball. That’s why we’re here. While we can’t give you an ironclad plan that’s going to eliminate the stress that comes from sending your kids back to school during a pandemic, these tips can help make sure they’re minimizing risks during the day.
1. Help them wear their masks.
While kids may not spread viruses as effectively as adults, they should still wear their masks indoors at all times. No matter how many ways people like to debate this, the science behind mask-wearing is fairly simple. When children are in close proximity, the virus spreads much slower if everyone is wearing masks that cover their mouth and nose.
Mask wearing can be tricky, especially if you’re raising younger children. That’s why it’s important to get them comfortable wearing a mask for extended periods of time while they’re at home. Make sure their masks fit them comfortably and are made out of materials they won’t mind wearing at school. And don’t forget that kids will model your behavior. If they see you wearing a mask, they’ll be more inclined to do the same.
2. Develop healthy habits.
COVID-19 spreads through air particles as well as surfaces. And anybody who has stepped foot inside a school building over the last 100 years or so knows that surfaces play a big part in how your kids interact. Bus surfaces, desk surfaces, windows, cafeterias, etc. All signs show that schools and custodial staff are all stepping up and taking extra cleaning precautions. But keeping your kids (and their classmates) healthy during the school day starts at home by developing healthy habits. Teaching them how to use a tissue to wipe their nose instead of their arm sleeve, staying a safe distance from other children, and simply telling mom and dad when they don’t feel well.
Germs spread faster in school. Kids are in close contact with each other, and they’re also not the most hygiene-first demographic of our species. Since there are five ways (from our nose, mouth and eyes, surfaces, animals, dirty hands, and children), one of the healthiest habits you can instill is teaching your kids about viruses, and how to sanitize and wash their hands regularly.
The CDC has created some great resources like this that explain how viruses work and spread. Help them understand, and then develop healthy hand-washing habits before meals, after they use the restroom, and whenever they’re done playing outside or with certain activities. If you make hand-washing a habit, you’ll be able to worry less while they’re at school. You’ll also be doing your part to protect other kids as well.
3. Pack their bags the night before.
Forgetting a pencil during a global pandemic is one thing. Forgetting a mask or hand sanitizer is something entirely different. To help make sure your kids stay safe during the school day, help them pack the night before. This means making sure they have everything they need, so their health isn’t compromised when they leave the house.
Hand sanitizer, snacks (so they don’t have to purchase or “borrow” on from a friend, and a mask are all pandemic staples they should be carrying in their backpacks. It’s also a good idea to pack an extra mask or two because kids never lose things, right?
4. Teach them about social distancing.
The CDC and health experts agree that maintaining 6 feet of distancing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. From limiting classroom sizes to restructuring outdoor activities during recess, schools are doing their part to make sure contact between kids is minimized during the school day. But parents should also teach their kids the importance of social distancing while at home and in public. Show them how far 6 feet is.
Create a fun mnemonic to help them remember, and place reminder notes in their backpacks and lunch bags.
5. Pack their lunch.
Research shows that COVID-19 is spread through the air and surfaces –– and not by food. So you shouldn’t worry about what your kids eat at school. However, packing their lunches can help them choose safer locations to eat during the day and keep them away from cafeterias and high-traffic areas that expose kids to more germs and surfaces.
6. Make sure you know.
In normal times the how-was-your-day dinner time question would usually involve fairly straightforward answers about recess games or teacher venting. But during a global pandemic, consider asking your kids about how safe they feel at school. Is their school taking enough precautions. Are your kids taking enough precautions? Understanding how safe they’re feeling during the day will help you make adjustments throughout the week –– and sleep a little better at night.
Additionally, don’t delete the email updates that your school sends. These can be valuable resources about the measures your local school board is taking to mitigate risks as well as follow up tasks for you. When it comes to raising kids during a global pandemic, the more you know, the better.
7. Use reminders.
Kids tend to forget things that fall outside of the sports/video games/friends realm. That’s why it might be a good idea to leave them convenient reminders wherever and whenever possible. Use a family whiteboard that reminds them to put their masks on when they leave the house. Drop a note in their lunches reminding them to keep their distance. And since it’s 2020, maybe send your older kids a few “friendly” texts during the day.
From educating kids about how germs work, to establishing daily habits like washing hands and eating good meals, we’ll set our children up for success during the school day. Like most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So take the time to dive into some of the research and information available to parents. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put together several useful tips and guidelines for parents, like this one. The internet and library are full of other resources. Plus, you’ve got great intuition and you love your kids. Those two things are, perhaps, the greatest, most important resources you’ll ever have when it comes to keeping them healthy during the school year –– and the rest of their lives.
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