Back to School: Top Tips for Keeping Kids Safe from COVID

While you can't control others or the situation, you can control yourself.

With school well underway, many children are telling us that they love being back at school with friends and in the classroom, while others tell us they have mixed feelings. From parents, we continue to hear concerns about COVID-19, wearing masks or not, and most recently, about whether to vaccinate or not. Know that you are not alone, and these parental dynamics are not just happening in separated and divorced families. These conversations are occurring within all families, and they are not easy conversations. 

Schools have different requirements and protocols in place to protect kids, which can be confusing or difficult to follow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps updating their recommendations, and every store we go into has a different kind of sign about their requirements.

What do we do?

Focus on what we can control. Referencing the top tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other experts on how to keep children safe from COVID, Kids’ Turn San Diego is sharing ways you can control what you can control.

1. Have conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine and immunizing your children.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children over age 12 and may soon be available to kids as young as 5 years old. The experts are saying that children will be much better protected from COVID if they are fully vaccinated.

Not sure what to do? Consult your child’s doctor. If you and your co-parent do not agree on whether to vaccinate your children, or have too much conflict to even start a conversation, control what you can. Focus on behaviors to prevent illness and to promote the health and safety of your children when they are in your home. Wash your hands to the song Happy Birthday twice, practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer and wear a mask when inside.

2. Help your children pick out fun masks that they will be happy to wear at school.

Masks are one of the best ways we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 when we are inside. Even if your child’s school does not require masks to be worn, encourage your children to wear their mask when inside. Schools can’t prevent your child from wearing a mask. Be sure also to regularly wash the masks to keep them clean!

This is another area that, as a parent, we don’t have much control. Do your best to educate your children so that they have enough information. Every parent’s goal, at one time or another, is for their children to make good decisions. Purchasing fun masks that your children will want to wear is a good place to start.

3. Keep your child home if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if they test positive for COVID-19.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, follow your school’s guidance for isolation, even if your child is not showing any symptoms. To avoid new challenges, we recommend parents follow their child’s school testing and quarantine guidance after being in close contact with someone with COVID-19. You may not have control over your child being exposed, but you do have the ability to prevent exposure to others. Remember, your child has two parents, so don’t operate in isolation; instead, focus on communication, and let the other parent know about the exposure and the plan.

Worried about your child missing schoolwork? Teachers learned to teach remotely last year. They have back up plans, so use them. Communicate with teachers and request virtual learning options. Help your child stay on top of school work so that they don’t fall behind.

4. Stay home and avoid large gatherings yourself until your child is no longer quarantining or isolating.

Here’s the reality: if your child was exposed to COVID-19, you have probably been exposed as well. You and your child may not have symptoms and may want to continue life as normal, or you may be feeling ill. Be your child’s role model — teach them that when we are exposed to a quick-spreading virus or when we don’t feel good, we stay home to get better and avoid spreading the illness to others.

It is okay and even smart to want to get yourself and your child tested for COVID. Knowing whether or not you have the virus is one way to have a sense of control over yourself and your family and have the facts you need to make an action plan.

Help protect the health of others in your life by avoiding large gatherings and unnecessary indoor activities until your child is in the clear.  You may have lots of feelings about this, but consider this: Make this temporary quarantine time a special time to spend with your child. Paint a picture or a bedroom, decorate for the holidays, look at old photos, create meaningful holiday gifts for others using things in your home. It doesn’t matter what the activity — Kids’ Turn San Diego is suggesting that you make the best of a challenging situation and have fun while doing it!

What’s next?

Cooler weather, Halloween, midterm exams and school projects, holidays, family gatherings, time together. We have so much to look forward to. We just need to take these extra steps to keep each other healthy and safe for a little while longer.

As a final note, remember that while you can’t control others or the situation, you can control yourself.

It is okay to be the only one in the room wearing a mask and not giving hugs because you are social distancing. Others may not wear a mask and may want to hug everyone with whom they come into contact. If you don’t like it, don’t participate. Be you and do you. It is okay for you to be the only one in the room wearing a mask or social distancing. You are making a smart and caring choice to protect yourself and others!

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