For many families, the beginning of a new school year is a time of excitement and anticipation. Children look forward to reuniting with friends, and parents gear up for new schedules and routines. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has completely altered life’s activities, leaving parents and communities concerned over whether or not children should return to school.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and several in education advise that children learn best when they are in school, safety for students, teachers and staff continues to be the priority. If you have a child returning to school, here are a few kid-friendly safety suggestions and tips to help your child’s school year get off to a great – and safe – start.
Masks are cool for school
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while children do not appear to be at a higher risk for COVID-19 than adults, preventive measures should still be practiced to help slow the virus’ spread. For children age 2 and older, the CDC recommends wearing masks or cloth face coverings in public, unless the child has breathing difficulties or is unable to remove their mask without assistance.
If your family is in a school district that requires masks to be worn, it’s important to equip your child with knowledge on why this safety measure is in place. Take time to discuss by:
- Ensuring your child knows how to properly wear their mask over their nose and mouth
- Explaining that masks help prevent germs from spreading to others when performing actions like talking, coughing, sneezing or singing
- Emphasizing that wearing masks is a safety practice that will help keep your family and community healthy
- Reminding your child that teachers, staff and other students will be following the same guidance
If you don’t already have masks that are the right fit for your children, be sure to pick some up that have multiple layers, adjustable ear straps and are targeted toward your child’s age. Masks can be purchased or made, but for younger children, AAP suggests acquiring pleated coverings with elastic.
As a best practice, make sure to have enough masks for each day your child goes to school. Wash face coverings after each use and rotate them out throughout the week. For moments of forgetfulness, keep an extra set in your child’s backpack or a few in the car. Remember, being prepared in the midst of a pandemic always goes a long way.
Clean hands are in demand
When it comes to children, good hand hygiene cannot be emphasized enough. Help your child make this safety practice a habit by demonstrating the CDC’s five hand-washing steps:
- Wet hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
- Lather hands with soap, including the backs of each hand, between fingers and under nails.
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands under running water.
- Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry them.
Be sure to encourage your children to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, including washing their hands and face once home at the end of the school day. As an option, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol can be used to cleanse hands when soap and water are not readily available. Younger children should always be supervised when using hand sanitizer, as swallowing even a small amount can lead to the potential risk of alcohol poisoning.
Six feet apart is smart
A key benefit to children returning to school is the socialization they receive from interacting with others. Being social this school year, however, means being present but physically distant. To help younger children understand the meaning of physical distance, measure out six feet with measuring tape and place a stuffed animal at the beginning and end of the distance. Explain to your child that this is the best distance to keep so as not to spread germs from one stuffed animal to another. At the same time, coach your little ones that when reuniting with friends, smiles and waves are the best and safe forms of greetings.
If you plan to use bus transportation for your child, explain in advance that they will need to spread out throughout the bus. Check with your local school district on specific bus guidance, as each district may have varying requirements on how many children will be permitted to ride per seat.
For additional guidance and ways to keep your family safe amid COVID-19, talk with your pediatrician or family medicine provider and be sure to never delay care, including well-child visits and annual check-ups, as needed.
As information on COVID-19 evolves, guidance sourced from the CDC and other resources contained in this blog may be subject to change. This material is intended for general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your medical provider for personal care recommendations.