Pandemic Back to School Fear

Cartoon image of a mask, hand sanitizer, apple, globe and stationary. Image by CeeGrrn

This year students and parents alike have a new type of first day jitters. It’s not just the new school year or new school but the added concerns of COVID-19.

This year’s back-to-school supplies is not only the new stationery and snacks, but also hand sanitizers, wipes, and masks. And don’t forget, the dos and don’ts of social settings. How long will our kids remember and practice it all, especially the little ones?

This year I’m one of the anxious parents. A few factors come into play for my daughter, like her underlying medical conditions, her struggles with spatial awareness and the news that keeps reminding us of the second wave to hit this fall. Furthermore, my daughter uses the school bus system, and the drivers themselves have alerted the public of their health and safety concerns for themselves and the kids on the school bus. Lastly, a few Canadian doctors with underlying uncertainties have added to my fear and ambivalence. 

According to the article, “Are Canadian doctors sending their kids to school this fall?” it seems the doctors with younger children are more confident in sending their children. I assume their confidence stems from a South Korean study, which showed a lower spread rate among kids 0-9 years old. 

I’ve tried to maintain some level of optimism, despite my fears. We’ve begun with my daughter’s academic prep, such as Math and English, as we’ve done each year, but I’ve had to include some safety lessons this year.

Here’s a list of safety measures we’ve practiced or discussed daily since mid-August:
  1. We started by using a mask for 30 minutes at home and then discussed how she felt. Once she reported that she was okay and showed no discomfort, we then went for an hour, followed by another discussion. We’ve hit three hours and will practice daily until school begins. I found setting a timer useful.
  2. I told her hugs and high fives are not permitted; however, an elbow bump will suffice. We’ve practiced this when she wakes up and goes to bed to simulate hellos and goodbyes.
  3. As I mentioned, she lacks spatial awareness; I’ve encouraged her to stretch her arm out as far as she can without touching the next person, and to ask her friends to do the same as a visual measure of social distance. We’ve practiced this daily. 
  4. Every time she enters our home, or before she enters any of the rooms, I’ve encouraged her to wash her hands to simulate transition periods at school. And if she has no access to warm water and soap, she can use hand sanitizer. I’ve also given her hand cream to prevent her skin from drying out from hand sanitizer.

We practice these steps daily, which has reduced some of my anxiety, knowing she has added a defence level to her school’s protocols. I hope it all becomes a habit before school starts and into the rest of her school year. We’ll continue to discuss her thoughts regarding the new safety practices at school for about a month into her school year or as long as she needs it.

I found Ontario’s guidelines for a safe school year another useful resource. I hope this has helped you and your child or children prepare for a safe return to school, and hopefully, it has reduced some of your anxiety. Please tag me @TriednTriumphed with any additional ideas via any of my social platforms found below.

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