7 Back-to-School Safety Tips During Covid-19
Parenthood is about weighing up risks, and no risk has ever been as hard as returning a child to school during a global pandemic. As a parent, your instinct is safety, but the long-term damage in keeping a child out of education is just as dangerous. So, what do you actually do?
In addition to the school's provision, there are a number of steps you can take. read on to find our 7 back to school safety tips for returning during Covid-19.
When Is It Safe to Go Back?
Your school provides much more than just education to your children. It teaches them social interaction, problem-solving, timekeeping, and emotional skills. Although there may be some health risks involved with returning to school, the need to provide these to children far outweighs it.
Schools are also a safe place for children to go if parents or guardians have to work. They can be places where children get their only healthy meals of the week. It is vital these places stay open.
Hopefully, your school will already have implemented a number of safety schemes. These may include distancing tables and seating, limiting movement around the school, and adding hygiene products with extra cleaning. In addition, there are some measures you can do to protect your child and support the hard work being undertaken in schools.
1. Get Them a Quality Mask
It is recommended that all children over the age of 2 should wear a cloth face covering to limit the spread of viruses. Anyone who has a young child will know how hard it is to enforce, so you must try to model good habits with your child. Treat wearing a facemask as you would any other good behavior, and reward this when possible.
Be sure to teach your children how to remove the mask via the ear straps and not the mouth, to ensure optimal hygiene. You could encourage mask-wearing at home or when visiting stores, so they get used to the feeling of having the cloth over their face.
Finally, remember to have a steady supply of masks. It is inevitable that children will get them dirty and lose them, so you may need one for every day of the week. Provide them with a spare and place it somewhere familiar such as their schoolbag.
Covering should go over the nose and mouth. They are safe to wear all day, though some may be more comfortable than others. It pays to invest in higher quality, a breathable mask for your child with two layers or vents, incases they are indoor all day or in stuffy, enclosed environments.
Your school may have specific guidelines on the types of masks required. If you believe that you have a higher quality mask or one that is more comfortable for your child, message the school to discuss this. It is likely that they will allow the child to wear the mask in place of the school issue product.
2. Enforce Hygiene
Reinforcing good and proper hygiene is essential to keep your child safe. Though this will likely be done at school, it will help facilitate the transition if you also follow these procedures at home.
Begin with hand washing, and explain its importance to your child. Show them how to thoroughly wash their with hot water and soap, going into all the nooks and crannies between their fingers. This should be done for at least 20 seconds, and you may wish to count this down with them or get them to say a rhyme or song that is about 20 seconds long.
Let them know that they should wash their hands before and after eating. You may also want them to do this when they have been on any public transportation.
Do the same with hand sanitizer and show them how to apply it when they enter a building. They should use a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Be aware, that you should also get a moisturizer and apply it to your child's hands every day as this can help prevent your child's skin from drying out.
Finally, enforce good practice such as using a handkerchief for coughs and sneezes. Get them into a routine of packing their tissues, masks, and hand sanitizer every morning before they set off for school.
3. Practice Safe Distancing With Them
Practicing distancing with children can be tough. They naturally want to interact with others, come close, and act tactile. You do also not want to strip them of that childhood wonder, so you must maintain a balance between the two.
It is recommended that you stay around two meters away from others who are not members of your household. However, this is obviously not practical or feasible in schools or when out and about. This confusion is also enhanced when you add it to the fact that nobody is yet sure how Covid-19 spreads among children.
In addition, it also depends on the age of your child. Younger children are encouraged to play in groups and continue as normal. Older children should distance and wear facemasks, making use of their more mature sense of judgment.
The best way to do this is to explain the rules your school has put in place and encourage your child to use them. You may wish to enforce the use of one-way systems. You could also explain the reallocation of classes if your school has chosen to make group sizes smaller.
4. Keep Sick Children at Home
It can be extremely tempting to send a sick child to school, especially if symptoms are only minor. You may also have childcare issues, and you may even have to take unpaid leave from work. None of these situations is desirable.
However, even minor symptoms could be a Covid infection. If they are, you risk infecting other children and staff at the school. In addition, you could do the same if you have contracted the virus from your child and go into work.
The possible symptoms of Covid-19 are quite vast. They include all the symptoms of the flu, including fever, runny noses, core throat, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and an aching stomach.
As you can notice, many of the symptoms are indicative of other ailments. While your school or workplace may provide temperature checking, this cannot determine if you have Covid-19 or another illness. As such, you must get a Covid-19 test as soon as you feel the symptoms, for you and your child.
You may find that your child develops the symptoms while at school. In this case, the school nurse or designated healthcare official should contact you immediately. The school should have a place where pupils can isolate until you are able to collect them.
If you will be a long way from the school or will be tied into work commitments, it may help if you can prepare a contingency plan in advance. Perhaps a partner or relative could pick up the child, bearing in mind any rule regarding mixing households.
5. Support Your Child in Social Situations
As a parent, it is likely that you read every eventuality and event that could occur twice over. However, no one was ever going to be prepared for a global pandemic of this scale. It has been hard for the mental health of many adults, so think of the impact it is having on children.
Your school should be able to provide support to any child suffering from stress due to the pandemic, but you should also be willing to support your child. Reinforce how safe they are if they stick to the procedures.
Your child will have been removed from many of the social situations they were learning about dealing with. Reintroduce them slowly back into the social aspects of life.
Start by arranging a socially distanced picnic or park activity with another family. Watch how your child interacts with other children and see if they jump back into life or need some social assistance.
Finally, teach them about online safety. Even if your child returns to a physical school, much of the learning may still be online for safety reasons. Your child may not be used to how to act and spot worrying behavior online, or they may have forgotten altogether.
6. Stay Physically Healthy
One way your child can keep themself fit and strong in the event of infection is to stay healthy. There are a number of ways this can be done.
The first is to ensure good nutrition and an adequate diet. This includes the recommended balance of healthy protein, fats, and carbohydrates. A good supply of minerals and vitamins are also recommended.
This should be combined with regular exercise. Many children will have been stuck indoors during the lockdown and may have gained weight or become lethargic. Now is the time to get out, about, and active.
If your child has developed an irregular sleep pattern, or moved their bed and waking hours, correct this before returning to school. This is perfectly understandable, as many families have not had to make a morning commute, an extra hour or two may have been added onto their morning. Set an alarm and wake your child at the correct time every morning, at least a week or two before your return to school.
You can take this one step further by enforcing daily routines that would occur in their school. Get them up to get dressed and clean, then have time designated for recess and meals that match the school timetable. When the schooldays would be over, get them to do some exercise or mental task to simulate the end of the school day or any extracurricular activities they may be taking part in.
Finally, stay up to date with any immunizations. These may have been missed while clinics were closed or operating on less staff. DO not put them off, as there are many other viruses and diseases other than Covid-19 still out there that can seriously impact your child's health.
7. Talk to Your Child About School Safety
Finally, talk to your child and discuss the situation with them. Nothing will be gained from misleading them or softening the truth. They need to know the facts and protocols to keep themself safe.
Review any school and wider community safety plans with your child and let them know why they are in place. Tell them about the hard work others, such as medical staff, may be doing and reinforce kindness. Explain how others may be sad and upset at the situation, and how they should support others.
Your child may react to the return to school in ways you did not expect. These may manifest as changes in behavior or attitude. Be ready for these changes and use the time before bed to allay their fears and discuss the day.
Some children may develop separation anxiety, due to being at home and in close proximity to parents for so long. Create some tools that can make them feel connected to home when they do return, such as taking objects like a photo or putting notes in their lunchbox. Discuss their fears and the return to school with them before the first day back and put their mind to rest.
The most important thing you can do is to stay calm and reinforce school safety. Your child will model your reactions, and seeing you taking everything in your stride will ease their mind.
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