Keeping Kids Safe at School Amid COVID-19

Keeping Kids Safe at School Amid COVID-19

While it’s typically felt like the “most wonderful time of the year” for many parents, back to school is ushering in a lot of new norms and uneasy feelings this fall. What can moms, dads, and caregivers do to keep their kids safe and their family’s worries in check when that bell officially rings?

Daniel Maring, DO, Holland Hospital Family Medicine, provides some practical tips:

  • Whether your child attends school at home, in person or both, be sure he or she is up to date on vaccinations. Although it doesn’t protect against COVID-19, the flu shot will be especially critical for everyone in your family to put on their to-do list this season.
  • Do a temperature check. Depending on school and state guidelines, it may already be a requirement to take your child’s temperature in the morning to verify that he or she doesn’t have a fever before entering school grounds. If you or a family member have a medical condition that increases your risk for serious COVID-19 complications, ask your doctor if purchasing an oxygen saturation monitor would be a good idea. (These aren’t recommended for most people, and if you’re feeling short of breath or ill, you should call your doctor or provider for guidance.)
  • Practice regular handwashing. The importance of routine handwashing, particularly during this coming season of colds and flu, cannot be emphasized enough. Remind your kids to wash their hands whenever they leave home, arrive at school, enter the classroom, return from recess and so on. “It’s helpful to think of handwashing like the habit of instinctively putting on seat belts when you get into the car,” Dr. Maring said.
  • Consider using a brown bag if your children opt to bring their lunches from home. You can clean and sanitize reusable lunch boxes every day, but amid COVID-19, it may simply be more convenient to put food/snacks in recyclable paper bags.
  • Buy or make washable face coverings that help your kids express their unique personalities. “If your child loves unicorns or Star Wars, he or she is much less likely to mix up or lose a mask with those characters on it,” Dr. Maring added. “You should also label your child’s mask clearly, so it isn’t confused with anyone else’s.” Check out this additional advice from Mayo Clinic on the use of cloth face masks.
  • Talk about the difference between physical and social distancing. The term “social distancing” doesn’t mean students can’t stay in touch or ever socialize in small groups with other kids who have been following physical distancing guidelines and quarantining when necessary.
  • Keep mental health in mind. Have an open conversation with your children about what may be making them anxious. Reassure them that safety measures are in place to keep them, their friends and their teachers healthy. Empower your kids with knowledge by going over some of the changes they might expect to see and experience at school. Wearing a mask all day may feel stifling. Do your best to carve out time for some mask-free outdoor physical activity with the family.
  • Just be kind. Reinforce the role each of us plays in safeguarding one another for the common good. Particularly for kids who are older, underscore the importance of protecting the vulnerable in our communities, even if it means missing out on mass gatherings and special events. “With all the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19, remember, this is a tough time for all of us,” Dr. Maring said. “Showing a little kindness, patience and empathy for others goes a long way.”

In your neighborhood and close to home, Holland Hospital’s pediatric, family and internal medicine specialists are focused on your health and wellness—delivering experienced and compassionate care for the entire family.

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