This fall, we're heading into an unknown future with the COVID-19 virus. While some schools are doing their best to re-open, other schools and some parents have decided it's best for kids to stay home, at least for now. As adults, we know how to social distance, wash our hands, and do whatever we can to minimize our risk of infection, but these practices are harder to enforce with kids and teens. Whether or not your kids are going back to school in the fall, here are some things you can do to keep them healthy.
Talk to your doctor and school: If your child has an underlying illness, it may make sense for them to do remote learning or take extra precautions at school. Talk to your child's doctor if you have questions about their risk, and follow up with school staff to find out what types of accommodations are available.
Practice social distancing: Young children especially will need help learning how and remembering to keep a safe distance. Consider giving them a visual representation, like a piece of string and make a game of practicing, both at home and when you're out and about.
Share the "why": It's extremely important that you educate your kids in an age-appropriate way about why it's important to practice good hygiene and social distancing. Make sure they understand that COVID-19 is serious, and that we all need to do our part to minimize its spread.
Demonstrate proper hand washing: Wash your hands with your kids to show them how it's done and make sure they're doing it properly. Display a list of the important times to wash and model it yourself.
Pack supplies: Make sure your child has wipes, hand sanitizer, backup masks and other supplies to stay clean and hygienic if they are going out in the world without supervision.
Supervise: If there's a high risk person in your home and you're not comfortable with the increased risk of letting your child navigate the world of COVID-19 on their own, then don't be afraid to keep your kids close or at home for a while.
Play outside: It's possible to give your kids a relatively normal social experience if you stay outside and keep a safe distance, or wear masks. Meet at a park, host a backyard playdate, or get together at a local watering hole to help your kids stay mentally and emotionally well while keeping them physically safe.
Keep your social circle small: Keeping a tight social circle can lower your family's risk of getting sick, and, if someone does get sick, can help to contain the disease within your community. Limit the number of friends and family members that you interact with regularly and don't socialize with large groups.
Get real with teens: In some communities, young people are among the fastest growing groups contracting COVID-19. While young people are less likely to get extremely sick or die from COVID-19 (although it's not unheard of), they should know that they can contribute to spreading the virus. Give your teens clear guidelines for their behavior during the pandemic, and let them know that seeing their friends and family and getting to engage in normal life as much as possible depends on them doing their part, too.
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