How to send your kids back to school as safely as possible…
If and when they reopen.
I am a NYC mom, a healthcare researcher, with two pre-teens in private school. And I have been as paranoid as they come as far as COVID is concerned. I raised the alarm with close friends and family as early as February. By March, I was writing and posting scary warnings for anyone and everyone within social media earshot. I have begged people to wear masks and stay home. I have cajoled and guilted and threatened relatives over 70 to self-isolate. My children rarely leave the house other than to bike, fish, or hike. My husband has not been inside a store in more than a hundred days. I plan to continue isolating us for as long as we can, however we can. But at some point, schools will open back up and my kids will have to go back. I am not here to debate whether this is a good idea or a bad idea. I just want to tell you about what I plan to do when that day comes, as a paranoid and over-protective mom (honestly, is there any other kind?):
- Make sure that my kids get their flu shots and any other potential immunizations at the first available opportunity. One of my biggest fears is not my kids catching COVID, but rather them dealing with the flu or some other preventable childhood disease because so many children are falling behind on immunization for fear of seeing a doctor during these infectious times. This is, and I can’t stress this enough, the MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do to keep our children safe as they venture out again. Please immunize your kids on schedule.
- Finding them face masks that fit comfortably. My kids hate face masks. My younger boy especially tugs at them constantly, often wearing it as a bandana rather than a face covering. I’ve realized that part of the reason is that our initial masks were too big for them. Since then, I have made and ordered masks that are tailored to their smaller faces. The more comfortable the mask, the longer on it stays, the better it protects my kids. So take the time to find them one that fits now.
- Increase their Vitamin C and D intake. I do this both naturally and with yummy gummies approved by their doctor. To help with Vitamin D, I have started buying and feeding them more fatty fish and mushrooms (which they have both gotten a lot better at tolerating). I’m also adding an extra yolk or two into their omelets. As well, going against all parental instinct, I let them play in the sun without sunscreen during the early morning and late afternoon. Vitamin C is a lot easier. They love all citrus fruit and strawberries, which are local and plentiful in the summer. I also have added more broccoli and Brussels sprouts and lots of peppers to their diets. The key was finding recipes that appealed to them … which for now means they like everything doused in olive oil and broiled till practically crunchy. I am not complaining. You may ask, why these two vitamins in particular? Because everything I’ve read shows that they could help.
- Packing lunch and snacks. My children’s school offers them a free lunch, which frankly is fantastic. But as much as it is time-consuming and economically wasteful, starting this school year I am going to be packing them all the food they consume, with strict instructions not to share. I know that’s not an option for everyone, but I think even sending along a few snacks will help. I know that vending machines are very popular at my kids’ school — and so I am going to do everything in my power to limit the communal buttons my kids press right before eating.
- Limiting commuting. Again, not everyone has this option, but I am personally going to try to limit any time my kids spend on trains, busses, and cabs while commuting to and from school. And they will not be going anywhere else. It will take longer, but we will walk back and forth every day, for as many times as we need to.
- Keep them isolated other than school. We don’t know what we don’t know. And the fact is, children may spread the virus just like everyone else. So for as long as they are in school, my kids will not be able to see their grandparents in any capacity other than outdoors and 6 feet apart. Which will be undeniably painful for everyone involved, since my kids love their grandparents and their grandparents dote on them. But if they must go to school, then they will interact with as few people as possible outside that community. I fully expect that at several points of the year, we will be told that this teacher or that student has tested positive and everyone associated with have to quarantine for two weeks. My kids will do their part in not infecting others by being as isolated as possible outside of school. I can only hope that other parents do the same with their kids.
If you noticed a common thread in everything I wrote about, it is that life will become more complicated (not less) for the parents of school-age children when school resumes in some capacity during this pandemic. It was already a nightmare trying to juggle their schedules during the best of times. Now with additional commute time, less help from their grandparents, and shifting to a combination of Zoom and in-person classes, life is about to become extraordinarily challenging. I am sure many parents are similarly scrambling. The only thing I know for sure is that we need to do our absolute best to keep them as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, until there is a vaccine.