Back to school during COVID-19: How to prepare your kids

August 07, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

School districts across the country are figuring out how to navigate educating students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are sticking with remote learning while others are bringing students back on a full or part-time basis.

As you prepare your child for getting back to school, Dr. Victoria Uribe, who chairs the pediatric department at Elmhurst Clinic, offers a few tips on preparing your child for school life during a pandemic.

  • Have the talk. Talk to your child about the coming school year and what it may look like for them. Ask them questions about how they’re feeling, expectations, what they may need to succeed this school year and ways they can stay connected with their friends. Dr. Uribe suggests using mealtimes to continue those discussions throughout the school year.

  • Educate on masks and hand sanitizer. If your child is heading back to a classroom, make sure they have these essential supplies on hand. Be sure your child’s face mask is comfortable enough to wear for the length of time they will be in school. For younger children, you may want to consider a mask that ties or connects behind the head rather than one that loops over the ears, suggests Dr. Uribe. Whatever you decide on, make sure you have at least two so your child always has a clean mask to wear. Also, be sure to check with your school to see if your child can have a small bottle of hand sanitizer with their school supplies for personal use or if you should just send a larger bottle for classroom use.

  • Establish a sleep routine. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on sleep schedules. “Kids have been sleeping really weird hours since this all started,” says Dr. Uribe. To get your child back on a regular sleep schedule try slowly re-adjusting it by having your child go to bed earlier each night and wake-up earlier each day.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends children get 8 to 13 hours of sleep, depending on their age. The National Sleep Foundation also offers a few tips to help your child get a better night’s sleep. 
  • Get a check-up. Even if you are starting out the school year with remote learning, be sure your child is up to date on all their school physicals before school starts, says Dr. Uribe. Don’t put off school physicals until later in the year when doctors’ offices may be dealing with flu or COVID-19 outbreaks, says Dr. Uribe.

  • Don’t forget the flu shot. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends flu shots for children ages 6 months and older. Uribe notes that the flu shot will be of particular importance this year as we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. “If we can prevent more flu that will help,” says Dr. Uribe.  Flu shots typically become available mid- to late-September.

  • Find a designated space. If your child’s school district is using remote learning, be sure your child has a quiet, comfortable space to do their schoolwork from home. If possible, set up a desk with their supplies so they have a regular spot to do their work. Let them pick out a few desk supplies to help personalize their space.

  • Get into a routine. If your child is learning from home, have them get dressed and have breakfast before starting off their school day at home. Work in some outdoor break time so they don’t spend the entire day indoors. When possible (and based on your comfort level), find a way for your child to safely socialize with their friends — whether it’s a study group outside or picnic lunch in the backyard.

  • Plan ahead. If your student is heading off to a college campus, be sure they are stocked with essential supplies — like masks, over-the-counter pain and cold medications and a thermometer. Talk to them about ways to stay healthy and safe during the pandemic and stay in regular contact throughout the year.

Our pediatricians are board-certified and specialize in the overall health of your child, from preventive care for healthy kids to treatment when kids are ill or injured. Find a pediatrician.

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