Ever since the nation started to shut down in March, parents and guardians have added homeschooling to the list of things they juggle on a daily basis. We all hoped that, by September, this COVID-19 thing would be a distant memory, and the back-to-school season would be colored only by reddish orange leaves and grass stains on fall sports uniforms.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 remains a lingering public health issue, and now parents and guardians are asking themselves a hard question: Should I send my children back to school?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, even within families. What may be right for one child in your household may not work for another, so you’ll have to consider the benefits of completely virtual learning verses an in-person/virtual hybrid, depending on what your district is offering.
No matter what you decide, there are a number of things you can do to help your children prepare for returning to school in this unusual environment.
- Talk to your kids, and listen to what they’re saying. Take the time to have a distraction-free conversation with your kids about COVID-19 and going back to school. They likely have questions stemming from things they’ve seen online, or comments they’ve heard, and the best way to assuage any concerns is to create a space for open, honest dialogue. You can help them brainstorm strategies for success in a virtual environment, or discuss the importance of practicing good hygiene habits while they’re in the classroom.
- Make sure you have the necessary supplies. Most schools are asking families to provide students with masks or some kind of face covering. It can be a challenge to get your kids used to wearing masks, even a little frightening for younger children, so try and help them understand that wearing a mask is just another way to keep everyone safe. Remember that cloth masks should be washed after every use, and there are a number of things you can do to help your kids mitigate skin irritation and breakouts due to wearing a mask.
- Emphasize the importance of COVID safety precautions. Back to school doesn’t mean back to normal. You should continue to encourage your children to practice proper social distancing, including wearing a mask as much as possible. Advise against sharing food in the lunchroom, or snacks during class breaks. Talk about the importance of washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, the amount of time it takes to sing the ABC song, or “Happy Birthday” twice. Your district will likely provide training for your children, too, so when they come home from school after the first day, ask them about what they’ve learned.
- Don’t be afraid to ask question. Take the time to read through your school district’s reopening plans. If you have questions about things like virtual learning, mealtimes, transportation, or mental health, reach out to the appropriate people to get answers. Never feel like you’re being too careful, or asking too much. Ultimately, you and the school are trying to achieve the same goal, and the more comfortable you feel with their guidance and suggestions, the better it’ll be for everyone involved.
- Trust your instincts. The bottom line is that you know your kids better than anyone else. Does your child have a pre-existing condition that makes him/her more susceptible to severe illness? Are there specific learning challenges your child could better combat via a hybrid model, rather than through solely virtual learning? Ask yourself these and any other relevant questions to help you feel confident in whatever decisions you make for your children and your family.
The Centers for Disease Control has a checklist to help parents and guardians plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. Additionally, you can reach out to your primary care provider with questions specific to your family’s health and wellness. Saratoga Hospital now offers both in-person and telehealth visits to ensure consistency of care even if you still aren’t comfortable coming into the office.
Please visit our COVID-19 page for more information on coronavirus in our community. If you’d like to become a patient with Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, call our Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900.