As we near the end of the summer holidays and welcome the beginning of a new school year, families are facing challenges unlike the modern world has ever seen. With schools reopening amid COVID-19, some parents and guardians are debating on the best strategy to safely send their kids back to the classroom. Certainly, sending students back to school gives them many learning opportunities and time to socialize with friends and peers, and it allows parents to focus on work. On the other hand, some families might consider virtual learning, because they have someone at home who is available to supervise younger students and have reliable technology to make online learning easier. Other families might also adopt a split-schedule strategy in which their children are split between in-class learning and virtual learning during the week. Whatever the choice, I’d like to provide you with some tips to help your child stay healthy and safe as they go back to school.
Teach your child proper hand hygiene
Proper hand hygiene is something your child should be familiar with already. Now that they’ll be going back to school with stricter safety rules than they are used to, make sure they understand how important it is to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. Demonstrate at home by having them follow you as you wash your hands while singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song together. The 20 seconds it takes to sing the song is the perfect length of time to wash our hands.
Equip your child with sanitizers
For younger children, using sanitizers might be harder to do as they might not be aware of how and when to use it. A good practice is to encourage your child to sanitize their hands after they touch surfaces at home or when they go into and out of grocery stores. Teachers will have hand sanitizers and other safety equipment in their classrooms; however, having a sanitizer bottle ready in your child’s backpack will be beneficial whilst they move around in hallways and classrooms.
Encourage your child to not touch their face
As your child will be in a public setting, they will be touching a lot of surfaces. Remind them to be careful by sanitizing their hands. More importantly, remind them to not touch their face after touching surfaces, since this is how bacteria spreads. Practice this at home: for younger children, play a game by giving them a reward if they can go a certain time without touching their face. Have older siblings participate as well.
Demonstrate to your child how to properly wear a mask
Many parents insist on having their kids wear a mask at all times in public, but they might be worried about their kids keeping it on all day during school. As children become more familiar with wearing a mask, they still might not understand the importance of doing so. Explain to your child that on a typical day, when they cough, they cover their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
Another way of ensuring that your child knows how to properly wear a mask is demonstrating how to wear it. Firstly, have them wash their hands before putting on their mask. Secondly, have them put the mask over their nose and mouth and under their chin. Thirdly, have them put the loops of the mask snugly over their ears. Make sure it’s the correct fit, so your child can breathe properly. Once they learn these steps, they are ready to put a mask on by themselves. Teenagers should understand the importance of wearing a mask and be well-equipped to wear one properly. If not, have them follow the steps above.
What is also key is normalizing this new task by putting masks on your child’s toys or making a game out of it by showing them how to wear a mask when you go out to public places like the grocery store, restaurants, or shopping malls. This is key especially for children with developmental challenges. Have them touch trace their face from top to bottom and then touch “masks with different textures until [they] settle on one.” (Chisholm, 2020). Doing this will help increase their sensory stimuli, making it easier to find the right mask for them.
Remind your child about the rules of social distancing
Even while wearing a mask, remind your child to stay 6 feet apart from other people in school. If they are close to another person, tell them to not panic. Explain to them that while talking to friends at school, wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart are crucial steps to help prevent the spread of the virus.
So, there you have it! These tips are just some that can help prepare your child for back-to-school during this unprecedented time. Be patient with your child if they have a hard time following these steps. Remember that they feed off of your energy, so a positive attitude and encouragement can go a long way to making them feel less anxious about returning to school. We’re all learning how to protect ourselves and one another, so teaching your child to be prepared and follow the rules will help them realize that if we are safe, we can fight this virus together.
Chisholm, Johanna (Aug 16 th , 2020). How to get your kids to wear a face mask: a COVID-19 back-
to-school guide for Ontario parents. Retrieved from: