In a joint statement issued on July 10, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, laid out the reasons why they feel it is critical for kids to return to school this fall.
“We recognize that children learn best when physically present in the classroom,” the statement read. “But children get much more than academics at school. They also learn social and emotional skills at school, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support and other services that cannot be easily replicated online.”
Likewise, children benefit from extracurricular activities, such as sports, dance, music, robotics and more, in ways that cannot be replicated online. Giving children the opportunity to vent pent-up energy and exercise their bodies and brains in ways that are fun, socially engaging and communal is vitally important to their mental and physical well-being.
But the concern surrounding the coronavirus is real and multi-faceted.
While parents and educators agree that children need to return to school and extracurricular activities, the challenge of keeping everyone safe cannot be denied. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the AAP have published detailed guidelines for this purpose, but when preparing children to return to school and fun this fall, parents can keep it simple.
Step 1: Have an age-appropriate talk about how this fall is different. Your children have been dealing with implications of the coronavirus since last March, but a return to school and after-school hobbies may make them think that everything is back to normal. Reminding them that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may help ward off not only coronavirus but all the other communicable ailments that crop up each school year.
Step 2: Remind your child that now more than ever it’s important to keep their hands to themselves and to refrain from touching their face as much as possible. Likewise, it’s vital for them to wash their hands after using the restroom or using a tissue to catch a sneeze or cough, and before they eat. When they can’t wash, properly applying hand sanitizer is the next best option. Just be sure they know how to apply the product so that they achieve its full protection.
Step 3: Despite what you’ve always told them, now is not the time to share. The AAP advises that children avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, games and learning aids. No sharing also applies to food and drink.
Step 4: Shop for some new supplies. Let your child pick out a few favorite, reusable masks. Make sure to shop as soon as possible if you are ordering online. In addition to masks, add a small pack of wipes, hand sanitizer and tissues to your child’s backpack and sports or dance bag.
Step 5: Remind your children of those things that are so easy to forget, such as sneezing or coughing into a tissue or their elbow rather than their hand; giving air hugs rather than real ones; and cleaning up after themselves. Finally, remind them that everyone is in the same boat. We’re all feeling a bit confused, overwhelmed and sad that things aren’t “back to normal” yet. It’s OK to ask for help whether in their studies, their hobbies, or in adjusting to the many changes caused by the coronavirus.