We are currently faced with all sorts of unknowns, most, of which, are completely out of our control. And while we cannot dictate how others choose to move forward, what we can do, as parents, is prepare our own families for what may lie ahead. Currently, the most pressing matter is preparing children to return to school. As school systems layout the various options that parents can choose from, the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing a return to brick and mortar. But jumping back into this option has some parents nervous and concerned about their child’s health and safety so preparation is essential.
Over the past few months, children have had varying experiences with the outside world, depending on how their family chose to respond to the pandemic. Because of this, their feelings in reaction to returning to school will vary. To give them the best advantage for a successful and safe return, parents should have age-appropriate conversations and practice the following four tips to prepare children physically for what to expect.
1) Wearing Masks: While “to wear or not to wear” a mask is one of the most debated topics currently, schools requiring masks are inevitable. And since children rely on faces to give them cues of safety, faces covered by masks can make them more cautious and scared. It is vital to practice wearing the masks and make them a routine, and fun, part of a child’s world. Letting children pick out or decorate their masks can be helpful as well as having them put a mask on one of their stuffed animals. Teaching more concrete things about masks such as how to take them on and off and the importance of not playing with them is key.
2) Proper Hygiene: Parents have always taught their children to use a tissue, cover their cough, wash their hands, and not touch their faces. For children, especially younger ones, this is a lot to remember. But now, more than ever, it is especially important for these things to be top of mind. And the more parents’ role model these behaviors and have children practice them, the more second nature they will become. Having age-appropriate conversations will also help to teach children why these things are important. The good thing is, having to wear a mask in school will help to reinforce some of these behaviors.
3) Social Distancing: This is probably going to be one of the most significant challenges children will face. They are, by nature, very hands-on, especially when learning and socializing. While most parents typically encourage their children to maintain personal space, 6 ft. is much more than they are used to. Keeping this distance from peers and teachers may prove difficult, but the more these things are reinforced and practiced, the better children will get. Parents can help children understand how big 6 ft. is by measuring the distance for them and giving them a visual representation of it.
4) Healthy Habits: Over the past few months, regular routines have fallen to the wayside, and bad habits may have taken over. However, children’s immune systems and overall health habits must be top-notch when heading back to school. Getting back to a school-year sleep schedule and eating healthy foods will help children be focused and ready to learn and help their immune systems be prepared to ward off any potential threat. And keeping children physically active each day will also help with these things while also counteracting stress.
Once school starts, Gentle East Martial Arts will continue to offer socially distanced, small-size classes to help children return to social settings but in a more limited capacity as well as virtual classes. And since martial arts is a more individualized sport, children can get safe training that builds skills they need while also having fun.
As we continue through the day to day changes of what the new school year may look like, it is difficult for anyone to know the best option. What we can do, however, is to create familiarity and consistency in our approach to helping our children feel safe. While some may choose the online option for their children in the fall, all children will eventually return to school and be faced with a completely new experience so we must prepare now.
In our next blog, we will discuss how to prepare your child “intellectually” for the new school year.