How to Keep Kids Safe from COVID-19 at School
As the COVID-19 Delta variant surges, both students and parents may feel worried about how to balance a positive learning experience with overall safety. The following is advice from the experts about simple ways you can keep your child protected and happy.
Please remember: COVID-19 brings nearly daily changes. Please keep up with the latest CDC guidelines, as well as suggestions and mandates from your state or local leaders, in terms of masking, vaccinations and social distancing.
Table of contents
- Vaccinate eligible family members
- Ask about the school’s policies
- Create open communication with your child about feelings of worry or anxiety
- Pack an extra mask (or two)
- The at-home COVID-19 rules still apply
- Teach your kids to speak up if they’re feeling sick
- Consult a pediatrician with concerns
Vaccinate eligible family members
The best way for families to protect their students – as well as the child’s fellow classmates – is to vaccinate eligible family members against COVID-19. As of summer 2021, children who are 12 years old and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, yet only 30% of 12- to 17-year-olds are vaccinated.
Vaccination remains the most effective way to protect your child from COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control recommends that children in this age group receive their vaccine. As COVID-19 infects a growing number of children, some badly enough to be hospitalized, it’s a crucial time to vaccinate your child to protect themselves and others.
Even if your child is not yet eligible for the vaccine, you can protect your child by having every eligible person in your home receive the vaccine. By minimizing exposure risks to children, you can reduce the chance of a child passing an infection – even an asymptomatic one – to others at school. (Find a vaccination site near you.)
Ask about the school’s policies
Does the school require vaccinations among staff? What’s its mask policy? Will they notify parents in case of a positive COVID-19 test by a staff member or fellow student? How do they monitor the health of their staff and students? How do they distribute food, or will students need to bring their own?
Knowing these policies ahead of time will allow you to be fully prepared and understand the level of risk. You can share these policies with your child so that they can understand what the expectations are and so that they know that adults are working to protect them.
Create open communication with your child about feelings of worry or anxiety
Because so many children did not experience a normal school year last year, some will experience very understandable anxiety about getting back into the classroom. Kids, like adults, can feel social anxiety after a year of increased isolation. While you shouldn’t assume that your child is anxious about school, ask them how they’re feeling. If they express concerns, validate their feelings and let them know you’re listening, while also modeling positivity.
If the child felt nervous being around lots of other kids again, discuss those feelings. Talk about things that made them feel better, as well as what didn’t help them feel better. Create proactive coping strategies for anxious children returning to school, such as deep breathing, making new friends, listening to music or journaling.
Encourage mask wearing
Children can’t always practice safe social distancing in the classroom. The most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is by wearing a mask at all times when inside. Be sure to pack an extra mask if masks are required at school. School can get a little messy, and kids can, too. A spare mask can come in handy.
The at-home COVID-19 rules still apply
Everything that your children did to stay safe from COVID-19 at home applies to school, too.
- They should regularly wash their hands (with warm water and soap for 20 seconds).
- They should avoid touching their face, especially rubbing their eyes or nose, or putting their fingers in their mouths.
- When possible, kids should try to maintain a safe distance between them.
Teach your kids to speak up if they’re feeling sick
Tell your kids that if they begin to feel unwell during school that they’ll need to tell a teacher or nurse right away. Doing so allows the school to keep them healthy and feeling well – and it’s a big help in keeping other children healthy, too.
Consult a doctor with concerns
If your child isn’t feeling well, or if their anxiety about socializing lasts more than a week, talk with your child’s doctor for support. AnMed Health’s Children’s Care offers many providers and practices in Anderson and Clemson, South Carolina that are ready to help you and your child.