Preparing for the new school normal

By Nuvance Health Pediatricians  |  8/7/2020

Anxiety may be high for families as school districts release more information on their safety plans this summer. And, while returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic may feel very different – at least for a while –  here are some steps to take before the summer ends to prepare:

Have the talk

Start talking to your child about the changes that they may see at school. Explain things like daily temperature checks, limitations in socializing and spaced-out desks. They may have assigned bus seating. Their school hallways may be marked with directional arrows that they have to follow. There could be new playground rules, like no sharing basketballs and limited playgroup sizes. By sharing what they can expect and letting them share their feelings, your children will be able to better adjust and adapt to these new expectations and safety precautions.

Time to cover up

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children age 2 and older wear a mask in public where they may not be able to avoid staying six feet away from others. Consider your trips with children in tow to the store good practice because it appears school districts will require children to wear masks too. We understand this may be an unpopular decision for some and difficult at times for children. Here are some ideas to help you child get used to wearing a mask:

  • Look in the mirror with the face coverings on and talk about it.

  • Put a cloth face covering on a favorite stuffed animal.

  • Decorate the mask so it is more personalized and fun.

  • Show your child pictures of other children wearing them.

  • Draw one on their favorite book character.

  • Turn their too-small favorite piece of cotton clothing into a mask.

  • Practice wearing the face covering at home to help your child get used to it.

If you are unsure what to buy, we feel homemade or purchased cloth face coverings are fine for most people, however the key is how well they fit. Pleated face coverings with elastic are likely to work best for kids. Adult cloth face coverings are usually 6x12 inches while a child-sized 5x10-inch covering may be too large for young children. Try to find the right size for your child's face and be sure to adjust it for a secure fit. Leave the professional grade masks like N-95 masks for medical professionals who have increased risk of exposure to coronavirus. 

Scrub those hands

Now is the time to work with children on handwashing techniques or, if you already doing this, turn those trainees into hand-hygiene experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps:

  • Wet your child’s hands.

  • Apply clean bar soap or liquid soap to the hands, and then place the bar on a rack where it can drain before the next hand washing.

  • Rub the hands vigorously together. Scrub every surface completely.

  • Keep rubbing and scrubbing for 20 seconds to effectively remove the germs.

  • Rinse the hands completely, then dry them.

Putting these steps to a child’s favorite song and making it a game can help.  Teach them when hand washing is necessary, such as prior to meals, after the use of the bathroom and upon returning inside from playing outside/recess.

School physicals/vaccinations

Notable declines in how many pediatric vaccines were given this spring could mean increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Although COVID remains a serious concern, diseases such as measles are ones that we must continue to protect children against. We highly encourage parents to continue to keep their vaccination appointments to ensure their children stay up-to-date.

Also, a yearly physical is always important to evaluate your child’s growth and development, and will still be required for school attendance. We take vital signs, track developmental milestones and review each child’s vaccinations needs. We also answer questions parents may have and make recommendations to address any overall health concerns. Doctors’ offices are taking many precautions to keep you and your child safe such scheduling well children appointments at separate times of day or days of week from sick patients. We also do temperature screening upon arrival, enforce the use of masks during appointments and sanitize between each patient.

Managing stress

We know parents are really scared. The stress of children returning to school, the unknowns that still exist about what the school day will look like and the possibility that it will change again once the school year begins is a lot for children and adults to try to deal with. Try to be patience, open communication with children if they are worried and reach out to your physicians for advice as needed. We are ready to help. If your child is sick or injured, or struggling emotionally, pick up the phone and call us. We are working hard to make sure we can care for your child, while keeping everyone safe.

Nuvance Health pediatricians are accepting new patients. To find a physician office near you, visit www.nuvancehealth.org and click on our Find a Doctor feature.