#childsafety | Kids and COVID-19 Safety Tips

Thanks to the novel coronavirus, this school year promises to be an unusual one, with children following COVID-19 safety protocols in the classroom, learning remotely from home, or both. The latest tracking from CNN on September 14 shows that most states are letting districts decide on the best approach for their communities.

When schools open in New York City on September 21, Jennifer V. will be sending her 7-year-old twin girls into the second grade under a hybrid model that combines in-class and remote sessions. She’s excited, but also nervous.

“I care about my kids being around other kids so they can be part of a group and a community, but my number one concern is for their health,” she says.

If you’re a parent of young children, you want to ensure they’re protecting themselves when you’re not around to supervise. With COVID-19, that’s not always easy. Here are 10 steps you can take to empower your kids:

RELATED: Kids and COVID-19: What We Know Now

1. Know How Your School Is Handling the Virus and Inform Your Children

For children to follow the safety rules, they have to know what the rules are. Parents need to track down that information and discuss protocols with their kids.

“The most important thing that parents can do is to help their kids be informed,” says Barbara Bentley, PsyD, a licensed pediatric psychologist with Stanford Medicine in California. “It’s really important for parents to read through all of the information that’s available through the school district.”

2. Explain What the Virus Is and How It’s Transmitted Using Kid-Friendly Language

In an interview with Global News, Vanessa LoBue, the lab director at The Child Study Center at Rutgers University, emphasized that kids are more likely to follow COVID-19 safety rules if parents teach them how coronavirus transmission works.

Elementary school children can grasp that germs like the coronavirus are invisible, tiny microorganisms that can spread from one person to another. Kids can also understand that even people who don’t seem sick with COVID-19 because they are asymptomatic can infect others. Cincinnati Children’s offers a helpful video to explain how germs are spread.

“I recommend that parents keep up with news on the virus and explain things to their children in an honest way, using simple words,” says Amna Husain, MD, a pediatrician in Marlboro, New Jersey, who treats patients ages 0 to 22.

RELATED: Is It Safe to Send Our Children Back to School?

3. Model Good Behavior

By practicing safety habits at home and setting an example, parents can help train their children to take health precautions even without supervision.

“If families are concerned about the child going to school but on the weekends, they have 50 people over for a barbecue, that kind of defeats the whole idea in terms of trying to keep the child safe in school,” says Thomas McDonagh, MD, a pediatrician with Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in New York. “Plus, children may think, If my parents aren’t following safety measures, why should I?”

RELATED: Superspreaders: Could You Unknowingly Infect Hundreds — or Thousands — of People With the Coronavirus?

4. Promote Mask Wearing

Irene Bordes, who has taught children ranging in age from 3 to 5 at a Montessori School in Yonkers, New York, for more than two decades, knows how difficult it can be for kids to use their masks properly. She’s heard stories about children who pull their masks down when they sneeze so as not to get their face coverings dirty, children who use masks as sling shots, and kids who want to swap their masks.

“It’s a tall order for kids to wear masks for six hours,” Jennifer V. says. “Right now, my kids have been wearing masks for hour-long stretches, but we’re trying to practice wearing them longer.”

Jennifer, like many other parents, is also trying to make mask-wearing fun. “I just ordered some Harry Potter masks,” she says.

The University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital offers tips on how parents can encourage kids to follow face-covering guidelines. If children pick out masks or decorate them, they take more pride in wearing them. Parents also might help kids make masks for their dolls and stuffed animals as another way to normalize the habit.

Masks will not protect against the virus if worn incorrectly, so parents need to teach and model the right way, making sure the mask covers mouth, chin, and nose fully.

RELATED: Mask Wars: Which Side Are You On?

5. Teach Safe Distancing

Kids are naturally physical and social. “One of the hardest things for children is social distancing,” says Cindy Lehnhoff, director of the National Child Care Association.

Dr. Husain, who is a spokesperson for the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics, says there are plenty of activities that parents can allow their children to do with friends that permit social distancing, such as skateboarding, playing hopscotch, running an obstacle course, or bike riding. Kids can have play dates where they read together or watch a movie, but at a safe distance from each other — or even virtually.

She adds that parents may want to steer their kids outdoors as much as possible. “Outdoor activities pose a lower risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus than indoor activities do,” notes the Mayo Clinic.

“It’s kind of nice to see a resurgence of kids playing outdoors again,” says Husain.

RELATED: Why 10 Feet May Be Better Than 6 Feet

6. Train Children to Wash Their Hands

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns people not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands because germs may more easily enter the body that way. Frequent hand-washing or sanitizing can kill these germs.

“Parents should make sure their kids wash their hands every single time they go to the bathroom, come into the house, and finish eating,” says Husain. “These habits can slip once kids are out of kindergarten or first grade — so make sure they’re doing it. You might even put a hand sanitizer in their book bag and remind them to use it.”

RELATED: Is It Safe to Send Your Kids to Daycare During the Pandemic?

7. Help Kids Deal With Stress

Uncertainty and fear due to the pandemic can stress kids out. Bentley urges parents to tune into their children’s emotional well-being during the outbreak.

“I think it’s important for parents to ask their kids open-ended questions like, how are you feeling about being in school?” says Bentley. “They have to understand if their child is really having stress and try to empower them with things they can do to feel more in control and less stressed.”

She highlights the importance of a setting up a daily schedule. “Having a knowledge of what they’re going to be doing helps kids — and parents — feel less anxious,” she says.

For kids learning remotely, that includes scheduled lesson times as well as scheduled times for snacks, lunch, and play, according to Bentley.

She adds that kids can benefit from some common approaches adult use to mitigate stress, such as breathing strategies, regular exercise, quality sleep, and a healthy diet.

RELATED: Is COVID-19 Anxiety Messing With Your Sleep? 8 Tips for Getting It Back on Track

8. Encourage Kids to Say if They Feel Sick

Husain notes that children can sometimes be scared or reluctant to share that they are feeling sick or stressed.

“Kids might be afraid to speak up about not feeling good,” says Husain. “Some are nervous about seeing the school nurse. Parents should encourage their kids to feel free to tell them or a teacher if they are feeling bad so they can get the necessary care.”

If they are feeling symptoms of COVID-19 or flu, catching it early can help stop the spread to other students.

9. Reward Good Behavior

Giving children some type of small reward for keeping up with safety protocols may be a way to reinforce these positive behaviors, according to Husain. She suggests that rewards used sparingly may help kids stick with the program.

She adds that some parents focus on negative behaviors and nag children when they don’t wear a mask or stand too close to other people. But Husain believes more positive results come with recognizing when kids are doing things right. The reward for positive behavior can be as simple as a verbal compliment.

“Praise is free, it’s easy, and it can be done anywhere,” she says.

10. Parents, Be Kind to Yourselves

The outbreak has added a lot of stressors for parents. Along with taking on extra responsibilities in helping with home lessons, many are dealing with challenging work situations or unemployment. Husain encourages parents not be too hard on themselves.

“This is not any easy time for for many, many families,” says Husain. “Find the support for yourself the best way you can. It is a very difficult time, so give yourself some grace.

RELATED: Boxed In: COVID-19 and Your Mental Health


Source link
.  .  .  .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .   .    .    .   .   .   .   .   .  .   .   .   .  .  .   .  .