How to Keep Kids Safe this Fall During COVID-19

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

As parents prepare their children for fall, Dr. Victoria Uribe, who chairs the pediatric department at Elmhurst Clinic, offers a few tips on preparing kids for life during a pandemic.

  • Have the talk. Talk to children about the coming school year and what it may look like for them. Ask 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 use of masks.  A child’s face mask should be comfortable enough to wear for the length of time they will be in school. For younger children, consider a mask that ties or connects behind the head rather than one that loops over the ears, suggests Dr. Uribe. Kids should have at least two masks, so they always have a clean mask to wear.
  • 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 kids back on a regular sleep schedule, try slowly re-adjusting by putting children to bed earlier each night and waking them up earlier each day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends children get 8 to 13 hours of sleep, depending on their age.
  • Get a check-up. Even if children are starting the school year with remote learning, be sure kids are 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.
  • 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 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 for schoolwork. If children are learning remotely, be sure kids have a quiet, comfortable space to do their schoolwork at 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. Remote learning kids should still 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, find a way for kids to safely socialize with their friends — whether it’s a study group outside or picnic lunch in the backyard.
  • Plan. College students should be stocked with essential supplies — 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.

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