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COVID-19: Back-To-School Tips For Parents And Children

As life around the globe is slowly getting back to normal, offices have started functioning, shops are open, movie theatres are open at most locations, so are schools and colleges around the country. Several states around India have reopened schools and colleges, with some having a mix of both physical and online classes.

Indian epidemiologists and social scientists are urging authorities to reopen in-person school classes for all age groups, saying the benefits outweigh the risks - pointing out the large gap caused by inequality, that is, economically-backwards and children in rural settings missing out on online education [1][2].

India had approved its first COVID-19 shot for people under 18 (12-17) in August, where the primary focus will be on children with comorbidities, like congenital heart diseases, malnutrition, haematological problems, immunodeficiencies, neurological disorders, renal diseases, tuberculosis, malignancies and obesity [3].

With the schools around the country gearing for the re-opening, there are things parents should keep in mind. Here are some tips.

Back-to-School Safety Tips During COVID-19

Although the massive numbers have come down, respiratory illness is still prevalent, with deaths being reported daily [4]. The reopening of schools brings along with it a sense of relief, and at the same time, a sense of traction and stress, both in the parents as well as the children [5].

The parents are weighed with the duty of training their children with the appropriate COVID-19 safety guidelines, however, the children must be taught about the importance of following the COVID-19 guidelines. Here are some back-to-school tips parents should look into.

  • Talk to your children openly, educate them about the COVID-19 pandemic and its seriousness, citing how safety guidelines can help reduce the risk [6].
  • Many students are on different (changed) sleep schedules since the advent of the pandemic, so parents must start pushing up bedtime to help ease the transition to a regular sleep schedule [7].
  • Some children may feel nervous going back to school and may experience separation anxiety, try measures such as having a small talk in the morning before they leave, keeping motivational and cute notes in their lunch or backpack, to ensure them that you are always around [8].
  • Be ready for behavioural changes, especially in smaller children.
  • Make sure you spend every evening with them, after school, to listen to their emotions and feelings.
  • Have direct and regular communication with your child's teacher and check how the classes are held, ensuring the safety of your child.
  • Talk to the school and understand the safety measures being implemented in the school (are the teachers vaccinated? how will the seating arrangement etc.)
  • Watch out for signs of stress.

Let's take a look into some of the most important back-to-school things parents should keep in mind.

Guide your child to strictly follow social distancing, washing hands with soap and water, wearing a double mask and carrying a hand sanitiser.

  • Mark or label your child's mask and strictly direct them not to share it with their friends.
  • Keep a set of extra masks in their bag, and a small pouch to keep the mask when not in use (such as during lunch).
  • Teach your child that it is important that they should clean their hands before and after touching their mask.
  • Discuss with your child why some people may not be able to wear face masks (due to medical reasons).
  • Practice handwashing at home with your child and explain why it is important to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after eating, coughing or sneezing, or adjusting a face mask.
  • If no soap/water is available, guide your child to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Note 1: If you feel that your child is showing signs of extensive behavioural changes, such as trouble in school or extracurricular activities, including missing homework, a sudden rebellious behaviour, sudden weight loss or gain, sleeping too much or too little etc. talk to a health professional.

Note 2: If your child has symptoms such as fever, nasal congestion, diarrhoea, fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, stomach pain, pink eye, poor appetite or shortness of breath, do not send them to school and consult a doctor immediately.

On A Final Note...

As of now, there are no exact dates as to when the COVID-19 vaccination drive for children below 18 will begin in India, however, "while a particular timeline for COVID-19 vaccination cannot be provided immediately, the Centre will decide the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children below the age of 18 years based on overall scientific rationale' and their supply," said Dr V K Paul, Niti Aayog member (Health) and India's COVID-19 Task Force Chief.

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