Back to School with COVID-19
It’s no doubt that 2020 has been one of the strangest years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a parent, it is totally normal to feel stressed out as the back-to-school season approaches. I’m sure you’re wondering: how can I let my kid go back to school safely? Furthermore, how can I let my kid go back to school and still have fun during the pandemic?
Depending on the number of cases in your state, some schools are 100% online for the first semester while others are fully back in-person. Regardless of the situation, there are many ways to help your child understand safety measures as they transition back to school. Remember you are not alone during this crazy time and listen to your parental instincts to do whatever makes you feel safe! Below are listed a few tips to help your kids go back to school safely.
Enforce The Rules
I’m sure you know all the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, as well as what to do if your child gets sick. All summer you have constantly been reminding your child to social distance, wear a mask, wash their hands, and stop touching their face. As you prepare to send your child back to the classroom, enforce safety precautions every day so they know what to do once they arrive at school.
- Social Distance– Remind your children to stay six feet apart as often as they can to limit the risk of being in contact with anyone who may carry COVID-19. Anyone can get COVID-19 just by being someone nearby through coughing, sneezing, or talking. Also, remind your children to not share food and drinks with their friends. It’s just not a good idea during this time.
- Wear a Mask– Masks help contain any germs that could infect others through breathing, talking, or coughing, especially when in places where social distancing is difficult. Many schools require a face mask at all times. Start practicing by having your child wear a mask at home to make your child feel more comfortable. If you have a child with sensory issues, it is important to build a tolerance to any new habit. Start having small increments where your child has to wear a mask and build up from there. Find a comfortable mask and play fun games to reward them if they keep it on for a long period of time.
- Wash your hands– Washing your hands restricts getting sick from touching contaminated surfaces and then proceeding to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Follow The Safety Measures
It’s scientifically proven that children learn best in a classroom setting. However, there is a level of risk involved with a group of children gathering in a classroom. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has established guidelines to help schools stay in session while being as safe as possible. Stay up to date with your school’s safety plan and ask any necessary questions. Schools should be in frequent communication with you regarding safety measures, but below are listed key questions to ask for more clarification:
- Will there be a masking policy for all students and staff members (if age appropriate)?
- What changes have been made to classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, buses, and cafeterias to promote social distancing?
- Are there hand sanitizer and handwashing stations readily available?
- Have cleaning services been increased? And how often will surfaces and other materials be disinfected?
- Are the staff and students who feel sick required to stay at home?
- What happens if someone tests positive with COVID-19?
Do What Feels Right
This is a challenging and difficult time for everyone. Let your parental instincts guide you during this time as you send your child back to school. Sending a child to school for the first or second or seventh time is stressful enough. Adding a global pandemic to the mix is anxiety that no one saw coming. Know that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling and it’s okay to make smart decisions based on your level of comfortability. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your concerns about your school. Whether you plan to send your child back to school or wish to keep them 100% online for a semester is entirely up to you.
It is important to also listen to how your child is feeling during this time. If your child is expressing anxiety or concerns about returning to school during the pandemic, be available and prepared to listen. Initiate conversations to help your child voice any concerns about going back to school during COVID-19. This is an interesting and stressful time for everyone. It is important to listen to your parental concerns and make the decision with full confidence.
How Do I Meet My Child’s Needs During COVID-19?
Depending on location, some schools are fully online while others are back in person. During this time, it is important to consider your child’s needs of structure, education, social contact, downtime, and exercise. Creating a schedule or routine will help your child be more motivated and ready to learn.
COVID-19 may seem like an extended summer vacation to kids, but it is not exactly time off from learning. This break is different because it is unspecified and unplanned. Children and teens do their best with the structure or an everyday plan to follow. Consider establishing a daily routine or schedule for the weekdays and the weekends. Children can learn and thrive best in a routine that is familiar to them every day.
Set a regular bedtime and wake-up for your child to follow. Creating a sleep schedule around the usual school day can help get your children back on track, especially if they get into a bad sleep schedule of going to bed late and waking up late.
Establish a School Schedule
It’s nice to have a loose schedule every once in a while, but too often can lead to a lack of motivation and boredom easily. Find out how your school plans to keep your child engaged and follow the suggested plan. Schedule periods of time throughout the day designated to school work, exercising, eating, and leisure activities!
Start the day with a morning meeting and schedule list, since this is what many teachers do at the start of a school day. Have a list of subjects/ class material to work on and take 30 to 45 minute time periods to work on throughout the day. If your child can read, it even helps to have a whiteboard or poster displaying the schedule they can follow with you.
For small children, remember to take breaks after doing classwork. An example could include working on reading for 30 minutes followed by a walking break or doing a set of jumping jacks. Include a break for lunchtime and have your child make their own lunch while building in lessons by asking thought-provoking questions.
- How do we get food from the store to home?
- What government agencies are responsible for food safety?
- Where does food come from? How is this made?
- What color is this? – Great for pre-school and kindergarten students!
- How many grapes are on your plate? – Great for pre-school and kindergarten students!
Math and science questions may include:
- What happens when we heat vegetables? Is it hot or cold?
- How much more is 360 degrees than 120 degrees?
- What temperature does water boil at?
After lunch, have a no screen recess and let your child play outside or inside, before working on afternoon subjects. To end the day, consider assigning homework, such as reviewing something they learned from the day.
Exercise and Social Contact
It is scientifically proven that being active every day improves sleep and relaxation. Walks, bike rides, hikes, and games such as tag and hide-and-seek are great ways to remain active. For sports, you can get together with a small number of healthy children to play a game of kickball or soccer. It is important for children to be connected to others because it relieves stress and allows them to have fun! Even if you are quarantined, parents can help kids stay connected to friends and family by using phones, computers, and tablets to make connections.
Leisure Time Activities
Allow your children to enjoy leisure time activities such as television, books, arts & crafts, and other free activities. Make leisure time activities both active and mentally stimulating. Teachers and schools provide kids with at least 6 hours of mental exercise. Try to match that! Try not to limit your children to watching TV or playing on tablets. Allow them to walk around, read a book, or draw a picture.
It is totally normal for anyone to feel anxious and overwhelmed during these unprecedented times. Be practical with your children but also remain calm. Make certain to provide accurate information from reliable resources while informing your children about the necessary information regarding COVID-19.
Recognize that your children overhear conversations and have access to online news reports. They may not understand what is being told to them and could be even more frightened. It’s important to ask children if they have questions or concerns about the pandemic and work hard to listen to their concerns. Remember to follow all safety precautions to protect your child and other family members from COVID-19 and remind them of how to protect themselves.
If you find that you or your child is excessively worried, tense, or sad, reach out to mental health professionals or other sources of counseling. Stressful times can contribute to mental health problems so it is important to take care of yourself and your child’s mental health during this time. Try not to watch the news constantly and distract yourself from triggering topics.
Lastly, it is important to watch for problematic reactions to stress from you and your child. Times of stress are associated with the following:
- Sibling Fights, since children are with each other for so long, find out how to resolve these conflicts.
- Substance abuse by adults and teens and some children.
- Domestic violence and child abuse. Tempers and poor decision making may increase during stressful times. If you are worried about your actions or others, rely on hotlines and local resources. Find ways to destress and relax.
- Depression. Try to keep information in perspective. Turn to resources for support and reach out to professionals for counseling. Remember that you are not along during this mental health process and many others are experiencing feelings of sadness and loneliness during these times.
Activities for Kids
With some schools completely online and childcare options unavailable, many children are forced to stay at home. Below is a list of activities parents can do with their kids to keep them occupied during the pandemic.
Online Educational Resources
- Many educational companies are offering free subscriptions due to school closures. ABCMouse/Adventure Academy , Khan Academy, and Schmoop are to name a few. To see a full list of education companies providing free services, click here. These resources are also great to help your child understand and clarify subjects and concepts.
- Cool Math 4 Kids has fun games and lessons to make math super fun for kids.
- Seussville is a Dr. Seuss inspired website with fun crafts, activities, printables, and even recipes for your child to engage upon.
- Click here for a list of podcasts- including stories, music, learning, and more- for children ages 2 to 6.
- Audible has the world’s largest collection of audiobooks and is offering free stories in many different languages- for kids as long as schools are closed. Listen here.
- Here’s a list of authors reading aloud their famous books as well as their own favorite work by authors.
- National Geographic Kids– features real-life videos of animals, pets, nature, and more.
- Camp YouTube– Allows parents to recreate summer camp at home with kids through a digital learning experience. There are even different summer camp themes to choose from.
- Course Hero– learning guides and videos for multiple subjects and classroom matters.
- Duolingo offers lessons to learn a new language.
- English52 helps users develop better English skills through lessons, videos, and activities.
Virtual Field Trips
Here is a list of Zoos and Aquariums that have live cams where children can check in with their favorite animals:
Below are museums that offer online tours to learn more about history and art through virtual experiences:
- American Museum of Natural History
- British Museum
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Museum of the American Revolution
- The Vatican Museum
Here is a list of virtual landmarks that you can tour:
Cook With Your Children
- Find new recipes on Pinterest, Food Network, and Facebook’s Tasty to try with your kids! Children as young as two years old can help out in the kitchen. You can even have your child wash fruits or vegetables or stir ingredients.
Kids can still social distance while enjoying nature. Children at any age can join a family nature walk or time spent in your backyard. It is scientifically proven that children who spend more time outdoors have increased motor skills and lower obesity rates. Playing outside improves imagination, creativity, and critical thinking skills- especially in a time where most schools are closed.
- Collect twigs, rocks, or leaves on a nature walk. Then, build a sculpture by also using play dough. Have your child observe each object by asking thought-provoking questions such as “What color is the leaf?”
- Go on family bike ride or hike.
- Enjoy a Nature Scavenger hunt with the whole family. Play I-Spy or see how many flowers you can see!
- Playing soccer or catch is a great idea as long as you don’t share equipment outside of your household.
Arts and Crafts
- Mr. Printables offers free printables and tutorials for children’s craft activities!
- Find coloring books and online coloring pages for your kids to work on!
- PlayDough, clay, molding sand, and more are fun art activities for your kids to enjoy!
As the back-to-school season approaches, there are many activities and ways to make sure your child is still meeting their proper needs while also having fun! For more information visit our blog!