10 tips to prepare for a happy and healthy school year
Whether we want to believe it or not, summer is coming to an end. As you’re preparing for the start of a new school year, you may have some questions, especially as we face another year with COVID considerations.
Dr. Bergen Nelson, pediatrician, former teacher and mom of two school-aged kids, offers her top 10 tips to help keep your family happy and healthy.
1. Keep up with infection prevention measures
If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said this year was shaping up to be a bit more normal for kids, teachers and other school personnel. The delta variant, however, has thrown us another curve – just as this virus has done from the beginning. Families and school systems are going to need to remain vigilant with the infection prevention practices – washing hands, watching distance and wearing masks – at least as we begin the school year.
2. Consider your family’s circumstances and needs
Being in school in person is ideal for many, if not most, children academically and emotionally. At the same time, each family has unique circumstances. Make the decision about whether to send your child to school in person that feels right for your family. Factors may include health status of those in your household, as well as your child’s ability to adhere to the safety measures needed to keep them safe.
3. Wear your masks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks, whether they’ve had the vaccine or not. It’s important to note that those of us who have been vaccinated are still able to spread the virus, even if we don’t develop symptoms or severe illness. The mask guidelines are a matter of protecting ourselves and others, including those who are not able to get the vaccine, while COVID-19 still poses a very real health threat.
If your child isn’t used to wearing a mask for several hours at a time, spend some time practicing before the start of the school year.
4. Share feelings
The pandemic has led to plenty of uncertainty and anxious moments. Even kids who are excited to get back into the school building may have some anxiety about doing it for the first time in a long time. Encourage your child to voice their feelings and validate what they say.
5. Take time to get acclimated, or re-acclimated
If possible, visit the school before the first day. Visit their classroom, meet the teacher, etc. Even if you can’t go inside, it can be reassuring to walk or drive by the school to provide a sense of familiarity.
6. Get onto a healthy school year schedule
Routines may have shifted a bit during virtual learning and over the summer, perhaps with later bedtimes and more relaxed schedules. It can be helpful to gradually work to get everyone back on a normal school schedule, allowing time for plenty of sleep, healthy meals, reading and exercise. Kids thrive on routines and knowing what to expect, so this is one way to ease some anxiety before they head back to the classroom.
7. Keep the lines of communication open
Teachers and school counselors will have a unique perspective on how individual kids are handling the transition back to the school building. If you have concerns, check in! They may have input on what your child needs and specific ideas for how to help. They’ll probably appreciate your collaboration too.
8. Perform daily health checks
Daily health checks are another step in keeping each other healthy. Each morning look for signs of illness, such as a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, sore throat, cough, body aches, severe headache, diarrhea or vomiting. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, they should not go to school.
9. Get your vaccines!
The vaccine remains our best line of defense against COVID-19. Make sure you’ve gotten your COVID vaccine and arrange for your child to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. We’re hopeful to have authorization for a vaccine for kids under the age of 12 soon, which will be wonderful for the school setting.
In addition to the COVID vaccine, be sure your family gets their flu vaccines this fall to help keep them healthy!
10. Stay positive
Kids pick up on the emotions of the adults around them. If we express positivity about school and the safety practices in place to keep them healthy, they’re more likely to have an optimistic outlook too.
There’s no doubt we’re in for another unique school year, but if we all do our part it will hopefully be a safe, fun and successful one too!