How to Prepare for Going Back to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Going back to school can be a stressful time for any family, especially during a pandemic, and especially when the school reopening plans are still a bit up in the air. 

As of this writing, a final decision on school reopenings had yet to be made. Yet, chances are that your kids will be back in school for at least some of the time this year. So, in addition to the usual things you might do to get your kids ready for school—stocking up on pencils and paper, buying new clothes, and so on—here are some other COVID-19 related things you should take into account. 

1. Masks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children over 2 years old, with few health exceptions, wear face masks. It also says they must be worn at school. If your children aren’t in the habit of wearing masks or still uncomfortable with them, now is the time to help them get used to them. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some tips how to help your children with masks here. The AAP site also has information on what health conditions justify not wearing a mask.

2. Hand washing. Likewise, after mask preparation, making sure your children understand the importance of regular hand washing is key. The WeAreTeachers site has a helpful guide for parents. Some key tips include singing while washing, which makes it fun and also helps children learn how to wash for the appropriate amount of time. (The usual standard is two “Happy Birthdays”.) Buying special bars of soap with toys hidden in them can be a useful tool with younger children. Finally, it’s important to be a good example and model proper hand washing for your children. 

3. Social distancing. Social distancing can also be a challenge for children, especially for those who are younger and were still learning about how to respect people’s personal space before COVID-19 hit. This site has some helpful tips for explaining social distancing to children, complete with videos—including one from Sesame Street’s Grover—that break it down in simple terms. 

4. Education about coronavirus. Along with instilling good hygiene habits, talk to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic. Although you have probably already had some conversations with your children, now might be a good time to check in again. If COVID-19 has been in the back of their minds this summer, that will certainly end when they return to school. The CDC has a short guide for talking to children here. The CDC says it’s important to reassure children that they are safe and carefully monitoring what children see on the news. It recommends explaining to them the basics of what COVID-19 is. 

Masks, hand washing, and social distancing are the ABCs of preventing the spread of COVID-19. These are just as important for children as they are for adults. If you set a good example for your children, that will make the back-to-school transition that much easier. 

For parents who want to make sure they have all their bases covered, this CDC back-to-school checklist should put your mind at ease.