This school year is a time for particularly big changes. Not only will the kids be adjusting to the usual back-to-school grind, they’ll also have to get used to new health protocols and limited interaction with their teachers and peers. A little bit of preparation will help. For example, having pleasant “coming-home-from-school” routines can help your kids de-stress.
The welcome home routine
As you welcome them warmly back home, ease them into the practice of removing their jacket and shoes, taking off their mask and washing their hands as soon as they get home. It will help to have a colourful poster to remind them of this step as they enter the house so that they’ll do it every day (especially when you’re not there to remind them). Make it as no-fuss as possible by having a basket ready for their used masks and a hand-washing or disinfecting station near the entryway. Doing this routine signals that they’re safely at home and they can finally be free from their mask. This is also important to protect those who are at home from possible exposure to the virus especially if you have family members who are older adults or have underlying medical conditions.
Also designate an area (or a bin) where they can put their backpacks and lunch bags. You can disinfect these later using a spray or with rubbing alcohol. Ask them to change their clothes or better yet, take a refreshing shower.
The de-stressing routine
Ask them about their day as they settle in. It’s important to listen to their stories – and they will have a lot, especially during the first week of school. Allow them to vent especially about new school rules or about what they like and not like about all the new things happening around them. Listen, acknowledge their concerns and do your best to help them focus on things that they can control. Be reassuring but also tell them that these steps are necessary to keep everyone safe.
Allow your child to de-stress in a manner that they prefer. Some might want to rest a bit, have a snack, play a video game, or read. Some might want to do some physical activity to release some pent up energy like walking their pets outside or riding their bike.
Always check how your child is feeling. Check their temperature if they’re not feeling well. If you notice flu-like symptoms, use the COVID-19 Screening tool or call the Health Links – Info Santé (204-788-8200 or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257) or your family doctor. Don’t send your kids to school when they are sick.
The winding down routine
Set regular schedules for activities like homework, play, family dinner, bed time and wake up time. With all the uncertainty surrounding them at this moment, a consistent and predictable routine will help them feel safe.
Help kids wind down for the day by:
- setting limits on screen and play time.
- asking them to have a warm shower if they haven’t showered yet.
- introducing calming rituals like reading a story book or having a glass of milk to get them ready for bed.
- dimming the lights and playing soft music.
Remember that kids need about eight to 13 hours of sleep depending on their age (Caring for Kids). The ideal bed time is from 7 to 9 pm so it would help if you start their winding down routine 30 minutes to an hour before bed time.
Tips on mask-wearing for kids and mask care:
Your child’s mask should fit well and cover the nose, mouth, and chin without any gaps. Make sure that their mask is comfortable and does not require frequent adjustments.
- not touch their mask or face while wearing it.
- practise good hand hygiene while wearing the mask:
- wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately before putting their mask on and immediately after taking it off.
- wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after touching or adjusting their mask.
- not share their mask with others.
- not dangle their mask from one ear, or pull it below the nose or mouth so it is only covering their chin.
- change your mask as soon as it becomes damp or soiled.
- remove it from behind using the ear loops to remove the mask safely. They should not touch the front of the mask. Note: Masks with ear loops rather than strings/ties should be used for students, especially younger ones, as strings/ties may be a choking hazard.
Storing masks for reuse throughout the day:
Your child should have a designated clean surface where they can put a clean towel and place their mask face down. You can also opt to give them a Tupperware or any clean, reuseable box, a plastic or paper bag, or a fanny pack to hold their mask when they’re not using it. They should fold it in half placing the ear loops near the mouth of the box or bag for easy retrieval.
It would be ideal to pack two additional masks for them so that they can replace soiled ones or the one they’re wearing around midday. Remind them that they can ask their teacher for a disposable mask if they need one.
- Throw away disposable masks properly or place them directly into the washing machine if they’re reusable. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after removing the mask.
- Reusable masks must be washed after each use in the laundry machine’s hot water cycle and then thoroughly dried (you can also use cold water but make sure that you use hot air to dry). Another way is to hand wash masks with soap and water and then boil for a minute to completely disinfect. Dry the masks thoroughly.
Sources: Guidance for mask use in school, Restoring Safe Schools, MB Province; Health Canada; How can kids stay clean now they’re back to school, CBC News; How to help your child cope with the transition back to school during COVID-19, The Conversation; and Healthy home routines for returning to school after COVID, Schlage. Accessed September 4, 2020.
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