By Lea Brink
Our children are gradually going back to school, despite the danger of Covid-19 that is still growing. This can cause enormous fear in both children and parents about the children’s health and safety.
Schools can keep children safe as far as possible by letting them keep reasonable physical distances and applying the best sanitary practices, but parents and children may still harbour fears. However, there is quite a lot you as parent can do to strengthen your children’s physical and emotional health while they restart their academic tasks.
Firstly, make sure they wear a mask. “If your child can tolerate wearing a mask, you have to make sure he or she goes to school with one,” says Dr Dyan Hes, a paediatrician in New York. She furthermore recommends that children be equipped with sanitary wipes. In this way they can keep themselves as well as their desks clean and virus-free.
Fear can also cause emotional stress. Ordinarily it is difficult to start a new school year and even more so during a pandemic. Unicef, the UN’s children’s organisation, recommends that you have a candid discussion with your children about their concerns in order to reassure them. Also, emphasise that it’s not unnatural to feel nervous about something. Be honest about the adjustments, like wearing protective gear such as masks. With regard to children’s physical distancing from their friends and teachers, help them to think of new ways in which to stay in contact.
It is therefore also very important that you lead by example, as children learn from adults around them about their conduct. By you yourself establishing the habits of washing hands regularly, avoiding people who sneeze and cough, and throwing away tissues after use, the little ones will adapt too new routines more easily.
At the same time, you should watch their symptoms. The list of symptoms is continuously expanding and it is important that parents stay abreast of this and check symptoms in their children daily. Coughing, fever, chills, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, muscle and body pains, sore throat, sudden loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea, runny noise, head and stomach ache, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting are the most common symptoms associated with Covid-19. Have your child tested if he or she suddenly starts experiencing these or other symptoms.
If your child is ill, rather let him or her stay at home. This is best practice even in a normal year and now especially it is of great importance. Hes says many of the Covid-19 symptoms may also be ordinary flu symptoms, which is why it is better to keep your child at home if any of these symptoms become apparent.
Let them also remove their clothes as soon as they arrive home. Let them do so at the door and wash their clothes as soon as possible. Let them also leave their shoes outside for the time being.
Also encourage them to play outside. Many child health experts are of the opinion that after the lockdown, when schools reopen, there should be greater emphasis on children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
Play teaches children to control their emotions, cultivates a sense of identity and develops important social skills. Playing outside and learning should be encouraged where the amenities are available.
Covid Symptom Study, https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/children-school-covid.
CBS News, “https://www.cbsnews.com/news/schools-reopening-coronavirus-tips/.