Navigating Covid-19: Back to School
Talk to your child about what to expect
The more your child knows about the dynamics of the upcoming school year, the better off they’ll be. As the details of this school year become clearer, keep your child in the loop about what to expect. If your school’s administration has decided to continue in-person instruction with daily temperature checks, let your child know it is normal to expect them. If the school year will start off with remote learning and tentative plans for returning to in-person instruction tentatively, share this information with your child. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for them to handle changes as events unfold.
Create a back-to-school protocol to keep your home safe
If your child will be going to school full-time, or even partially, it’s important to maintain a sanitizing routine upon returning home from school. “When children return from school, they should immediately sanitize their hands,” advises board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Candice W. Jones. “Once at home, at the very least, they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry, or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great, but not absolutely necessary.”
Talk to your child about a daily disinfecting routine, and practice it a few times before school starts.
Zooming in on remote schooling
Many states and school districts have announced the continuation of distance learning for the start of the new school year. If the idea of sitting your child down in front of the screen for hours at a time again makes your head spin, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, shares these tips for helping children succeed at remote learning:
- Encourage movement. Squeeze in some stretching breaks throughout the school day and pencil in larger chunks of time for longer exercises, like a bike ride around the block. If your child finds it particularly difficult to sit still for long periods of time, set up a tablet or laptop on a raised surface and have your child stand through their classes.
- Reduce distractions. Create a distraction-free zone for your child’s learning to help boost their focus. Noise-canceling headphones can also be helpful to drown out auditory distractions.
- Adjust your schedule as needed. Many younger children need constant or intermittent guidance to help them with their remote learning. If possible, adjust your own schedule so you can be on hand to help your child as necessary.
- Use a checklist for focus. A basic visual checklist of tasks that need to be completed can help children focus. Draw up the checklist with your child at the beginning of each day and have them cross off tasks as they’re completed.
- Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child successfully follows instructions, provide immediate and positive feedback. You can keep it small, from a sticker on their work assignment or words of praise to an extra 15 minutes of play before bedtime.
Help your child prepare for wearing a face mask at school (if required)
School supply lists are looking very different this year, with “face masks” penciled in right next to “erasers” and “glue.” But having your child wear a mask for hours on end while sitting through school can sound next to impossible.
It’s also a good idea to practice mask-wearing at home. This will serve the dual purpose of getting your child accustomed to wearing a mask, and help to ensure your child is wearing it correctly before school starts. If your child is particularly resistant to wearing a mask, you may want to employ some strategies, like having them wear the mask for the length of their favorite song, or playing dress-up as a doctor or your child’s favorite superhero.
For the sensory child, face masks can be a nightmare. Make it easier by finding the style that is most comfortable for your child, whether that’s a classic ear-loop mask, a bandanna style covering, or a neck gaiter. Extenders or button headbands can also be a welcome relief for irritated ears.
Finally, make masks fun again by choosing a child-friendly pattern. You can go with these adorable bear face masks from Amazon, have your child design their own mask on Etsy, choose an extra breathable and lightweight mask from Athleta or pick out a mask featuring your child’s favorite movie character from Disney.