As coronavirus cases surge in some parts of the country, many families and educators are wondering how exactly school will be different this year.
For parents, sending their kids into a classroom may be more nerve-wracking than usual this year, with the normal stresses of back to school compounded with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But whether your child will go to school, learn from home, or a combination of both, there are still steps you can take to get ready for what may be an unusual year for education.
These are a few expert tips to help parents prepare for sending their kids back to school this fall.
Get the right supplies
In addition to school supplies like notebooks and utensils, parents should equip their kids with items that will help keep them safe against coronavirus while they’re in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends several safety guidelines for students and parents to follow when school is in session, including social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and wearing face masks. Make sure you send your child off with hand sanitizer and face masks to avoid getting sick, or spreading around potential infections.
Encourage them to wear masks
It’s hard enough convincing some adults to wear face masks, but it’s an entirely different struggle when it comes to children. There are plenty of reasons why children might not want to wear a mask. For some, it’s uncomfortable, while others don’t fully understand the seriousness of the pandemic. Dr. Julia Sammons, the director of the department of infection prevention and control at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recommends explaining to your child why they need to wear masks and to provide a model for mask etiquette, both at home and through others. “This is a new, unprecedented experience for all of us,” says Sammons. “It will make your child more comfortable to see other people wearing masks. You might even show them pictures of other children wearing masks as well.”
Make sure they follow good hygiene practice
Instilling good hygiene habits will be essential for parents whose kids return to school this year. "Understanding the importance of good hand hygiene is one of the most essential things your child should know when heading back to school,” Dr. Jarret Patton, pediatrician and CEO of DoctorJarret in eastern Pennsylvania, told PureWow. “Use the summer as a training ground for proper hand washing while teaching your child how germs can spread by touching objects or other people."
Set a good example
Parents should take the remainder of summer to set a good example when it comes to coronavirus safety guidelines. "I think the most important thing parents can do is to model themselves the behaviors that we wish the children to also adopt while they're in school," Dr. Charlene Wong, Asst. Prof. of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, told ABC11. Wong said that parents who consistently wear face masks, practice physical distancing from other people, and model frequent handwashing will encourage their children to follow the same behaviors when they're in the school setting.
Talk to them
This is a complicated time as much for your child as it is for you. Take the time to speak with your little one so you can probe their understanding of the pandemic, address any concerns and help set new expectations. Dr. Wong suggests that parents "talk with their child about what's going to be expected for them when they return to school,” adding that older students with more independence can be empowered to think about strategies they'll use to follow the guidelines and encourage their peers to do so as well.