Keep your family healthy as your kids return to school.

While handling COVID-19 will probably never feel second nature, most of us have fallen into a pattern of life that takes the virus into account. However, as summer speeds by and schools begin to discuss reopening for the new school year, you may find yourself wondering how to handle this new element of COVID-19 prevention.

Here are a few steps you can take to help your kids be back-to-school ready this fall, no matter what the school year looks like.

Start by being as comfortable as you can with your decision to either keep your child at home or send them back to school.

The facts are always a great place to start when trying to make a difficult decision. The fight against COVID-19 looks different in each state, county, and city. It’s important to check what your state and local government each have to say. Evaluate the current situation often as you make your decision, and check back for updates as the beginning of school looms closer.

Thankfully, the Cobb & Douglas Public Health website is updated daily. You can stay in the know to monitor the situation in Marietta.

Practice wearing masks for increasingly longer periods of time.

Face masks don’t work nearly as well if they’re not worn properly, and wearing a mask for more than the length of a shopping trip isn’t something most kids are used to. If you plan for your child to be in an in-person learning environment of some kind, go over proper mask-wearing procedures, then put them into practice. If a mask is an everyday part of their life right now, it will be one less adjustment for them to make once school begins.

Finding a properly fitting face mask is vital to its effectiveness. A face mask should fit over the nose, mouth, and chin, and should fit snugly against the sides of your child’s face without hindering their breathing. Make sure your children know to wash their hands before they put the mask on and after they take it off, and to only handle it by the ties or loops that go over their ears. Additionally, their mask needs to be washed after a single day of use. Be sure to buy or make several face masks for each of your children. Plus, letting your children each choose a few face masks with fun patterns and colors can help make the experience more fun for them.

Refresh your children on proper hygiene techniques.

While you’re working on making masks no big deal, you can take the opportunity to review hand-washing as well. Remind them they still need to cough or sneeze into their elbow and stay six feet from other people whenever possible.

Talk to your children about this transition.

School, whether at-home or in-person, will look different than previous years for returning students. Older children may be worried about the virus itself, in addition to the changes. It’s a good idea to prepare them for changes they’ll likely experience (wearing a mask, social distancing, etc.). Talk to them about the virus and answer their questions openly and honestly. Once the school year starts, make an effort to foster open communication with your children about how they’re doing at school and how they’re feeling about these changes. Be understanding and compassionate, and do your best to give them the support they need to get through this transition.

If your child is participating in virtual learning, talk to them about it. Ask them what they think they’ll miss the most about in-person learning and what they think they’ll be happiest to miss at school.

Fuel your children with healthy meals.

Ensuring your children eat a healthy breakfast and lunch is always important, as a healthy, balanced meal will help them feel full for longer and help them concentrate on their lessons. Make sure your children’s lunches include a lean protein, fruit and vegetables, and a very small amount of carbohydrates. The vitamins and minerals in a healthy meal like this will also help your children grow and strengthen their immune system, which is more important than ever as we continue to try and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Nutrition also impacts your child’s mood. Constipation in particular can cause a gambit of emotional and physical issues. So keep your child going regularly with a balanced diet.

Schedule a dental appointment for your children before the school year begins.

It’s a good idea to take advantage of your more flexible schedule during the summer to take your children to their regular dental appointments before the school year begins. This makes the appointment less stressful for you because you don’t have to worry about juggling your schedule and whether or not they’re missing class. Additionally, your child’s oral health can have an impact on their overall health; health issues like gum disease even have the potential to weaken your children’s immune systems. As a result, making sure their teeth and gums are healthy before they go back to school can help you rest easy knowing each of your children’s immune systems is prepared to do its job.

Even if your child is staying home this year, an improved immune system is always a positive thing.

Make sure your children get enough sleep.

Your children need plenty of sleep to function at their best, as being well-rested helps them learn faster, pay attention in class, and strengthen their immune system. Getting enough sleep is always important at the beginning of the school year, but it’ll be even more important this year. Since they’ve been out of school for so long, they’ll need help readjusting to the schedule and taking the extra changes the school year will hold in stride.

Remember, you are your child’s safe space.

That often means all of their stress comes out at you in not-so-pleasant forms, such as tantrums, anger, or hurtful words. This year has the potential to be more stressful for your child, and you might see an uptick in tantrums, misunderstandings, and arguments. Hang in there, and remember they’re still learning their own coping skills for stress. Model coping skills whenever you can, and make sure you give yourself regularly scheduled breaks from parenting so you can give your child your best.

Try your best to go with the flow.

We know it’s hard to cope when you can’t plan for the upcoming year. If you’ve already chosen virtual learning, then we encourage you to make your plans but leave room for the unique situation you and your family are in this year. Distance learning can take both you and your child to the breaking point, so make sure you allow for plenty of break times. You’ve made the best decision for your child and your family.

If your child is going back to in-person learning this year, rest easy knowing you’ve made the best decision for your child and family. The year will unfold outside of your control, and you can be prepared to walk through changes as they come. Have a backup plan for virtual learning at home, such as pre-designated work spaces for yourself and your child. Simple things can make you feel much more prepared for the unexpected.

Whatever you chose for your child and family, we have no doubt you considered all the facts and the reality of your situation. It’s really hard to make potentially life-changing choices for the ones you love the most. We are with you, making the same decisions for our children. We’ll be praying for the safety of your family right alongside ours.