Normally, for parents of school aged children, the end of summer break is routinely characterized as “the most wonderful time of the year”! However, for many families, this September, schools reopening is not all celebration. COVID-19 presents extra challenges for parents sending their children back to school, especially for families with a member that has an increased risk of having severe illness from COVID-19. On the other hand, schools reopening across the nation, is a step closer towards regaining normality, and is being embraced, by others, as a step in the right direction.

Synergy Health Advisor’s Chief medical physician Dr. Sakina Dinani stresses that

It is important to bring the social and educational benefits of school back to our children as it is an integral part of their childhood and development. But schools and parents must implement routines and procedures to ensure the return to school is safe for everyone. 

Are Children at Risk?

According to the CDC children are less likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19 compared to adults; however, they are still at risk of catching the virus and spreading it. Although vaccines are unavailable to children under 12 years old, Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI) like mask wearing and physical distancing are the best way to protect children from catching the virus.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 in children include: 

  • Fever
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Poor appetite

These are the same symptoms of a common cold or flu.

With schools reopening in September, it is imperative parents are constantly aware of how their children are feeling and keep them home if they are experiencing one of these above symptoms. 

Check out these 5 tips below to cope with the added complications COVID-19 presents:

Speaking with your children and asking about their fears and anxieties gives parents a chance to reassure their children and to explore how to “problem solve” with them. Speaking about your own vulnerability allows children to see that the pandemic is affecting everyone and allows parents to role model how to positively cope with challenges. Along with talking about anxieties of returning to school, parents should also talk about the positives that the pandemic has brought about. Flipping the narrative and making a list of positive things that have come out of the pandemic will give more meaning to the last two years for both parents and children. Within your discussion, be sure to make a small list of what pandemic routines your family adapted over the last two years that should be kept.

Along with the standard school day routines, be sure to develop a daily COVID-CHECK routine that has children asking themselves, and their parents questions about the above COVID -19 symptoms before getting ready for school in the morning. The daily morning COVID CHECK is an easy way to get the whole family involved and aware of what to look out for and what to do if these symptoms are spotted. If your child has any of the above mentioned symptoms, they should stay home from school, and possibly even get tested for COVID-19. Taking your children straight home from school and avoiding after school socializing and playing in the playground is also an important routine to adopt to minimize the spread of the virus between people. 

Washing one’s hands well and frequently is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hand hygiene is something children need to be reminded of and shown often, even in pre-pandemic times. Pass down easy “rules of thumb” for your child to remember, like washing your hands for as long as it takes to sing “the happy birthday song”. Children should be washing their hands before and after eating and taking off their masks. A fun game to play with your children to motivate them to wash their hands at school is to draw a little picture (smiley face) on their palms with a maker in the morning and then challenge them to wash their hands enough times at school that when they come home, the picture has completely washed off. 

Add masks to your “back to school” shopping list. If your child is required to wear a mask in school, make it a mask of their choice. There are different styles, from ones that loop around your ears, tie at the back of the head, or face shields, disposable and reusable. For younger children who are not used to wearing a mask for a long time, start practicing mask wearing at home with rewards for every time milestone achieved.

Wearing a mask is how we can prevent little droplets coming from other people breathing, sneezing or coughing from entering our own mouth and nose; the mask is like a personal forefield. If your children are playing closely with other children in the school yard, encourage them to protect their friends and themselves by wearing a mask even outside.

Talking to your children about how to properly wear a mask over your mouth and nose as well as practicing taking off the mask and putting it back on without touching the outside (exposed) part of the mask are all helpful tips to equip your children with before school resumes. It is fine to wear the same mask for the entire day; however, having an extra mask is important if your child accidentally breaks, drops or gets their mask wet.

Physical distancing is probably the most difficult thing for children to practice, especially when they are around their peers. By keeping physical distance from others, those infected with the virus are less likely to spread it. When you are six feet or more apart from another person, those droplets that exit our bodies from breathing, sneezing or coughing just fall to the ground.  Explaining this simple science to your children will empower them with the understanding of why they should stay six feet from people not in their family. Talk to your child about what six feet looks like by drawing comparisons with other things in their lives like: A bed, long hockey stick, standing with your arms stretched out. 

Although going back to school, meeting and interacting with a lot of people and risking the spread of the virus is nerve racking, going back to school is also an exciting time where friends reconnect and kids come home with exciting stories to share with their families; something we’ve been missing for a long time. Going back to school is good for your child’s mental health and social development and by taking some of the steps outlined above, we can ensure our children benefit from school safely. 

At Synergy Health Advisors, we understand it has been a difficult year and the anxiety going back to school presents.

We are here to help you protect yourself and your loved ones by offering guidance and a variety of COVID-19 tests, including same-day RT-PCR – the universally accepted test.