Figuring out how to safely reopen schools this fall is one of the most challenging decisions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress in June, “I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school.” The challenge quickly became finding a pathway to reopen schools while keeping staff and students safe.
There are no easy answers for parents and school staff. Below are some ways parents can take the lead in preparing their children for a history-making school year.
Back-to-school supplies look different
Parents need to have a back-to-school kit that includes a minimum of five cloth face masks that have been pre-approved by their children and are comfortable on their child’s face. If the child is young, think about using a lanyard to attach to the mask to keep it from dropping on the floor or getting lost. A small bottle of hand sanitizer that is kept at school is also a must.
Teach the signs and symptoms of COVID-19
Doing temperature screenings regularly so children understand and are comfortable with the process is key. Parents need to teach their children what the signs of COVID-19 are and to speak up should they start to experience any of the symptoms.
Prepare children for a different school experience
Parents should talk to their children about the need to follow new rules in schools, such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and personal hygiene and why this is so very important. Reinforce the three W’s: Wash your hands, Wear a face mask, Watch your distance from others.
With all the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with the dangers of COVID-19, it’s important to avoid humiliating those who have contracted the virus. Remember, this is a tough time for everyone, and it’s always best to be kind.
Plan: A, B, C, D, E, and F
There is an extreme amount of uncertainty with reopening schools. One of the best lessons we can instill in our children long before the school year begins is the ability of adaptability — that the only thing certain is change. The pandemic is a very fluid situation with changes that happen quickly. Parents should help prepare the children for plans to change, as we continue to adapt our institutions to try and best keep all safe and healthy.
The educational, developmental, and societal impacts of having schools closed are undoubtedly real. The most important thing for children, families, educators, and the country is to reopen schools safely, and in accordance with local health conditions. Implementing comprehensive plans knowing that plans will change and change again. Preparing to expect the unexpected is the best preparation parents can give their children in this time.
This blog article was contributed by Mary Ann Berg, Executive Director for Nexus-Indian Oaks Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.