As parents are returning to work outside their homes, the school year has started with both virtual and hybrid instructions, and the discussion continues, about the safety and possible future outbreaks. In the midst of everything that has been happening due to the coronavirus pandemic, nothing really is concrete, and we all still have lots of doubts. Specialists warn that it is necessary to take the matter seriously, especially when dealing with young children.
Although we know children are resilient and may have adapted well to this new way of living, social isolation has also created a lot of stress and has affected mental health not only in adults but in children, and we still don’t know how it will affect anyone in the long run. The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics has defended the return to face-to-face classes, as long as they follow the appropriate safety protocols. The arguments are due to changes in behavior in the pandemic, since there is no more contact with children of the same age, at a stage when this coexistence is highly important. It can even cooperate for the child’s own safety, especially those who live in a vulnerable situation where their only safe and adequate caring happens at school.
According to BSP, in no other country have children been away from school for so long and that is why they advocate the return, even if the pandemic is not fully controlled. And although some organizations point to the possibility of a new outbreak of coronavirus that can be caused due to the return to normal activities, as happened in Israel and it is starting to happen here in the United States as well, according to international experiences, some countries have managed to return to a new normal sooner and safely. But before we completely embrace this return, we need to consider a few things.
Should my child return to school in-person?
If your little one has any type of illness, seek guidance from a professional. We know that children with autoimmune diseases, such as rectocolitis, Chron’s disease, and those who treat cancer cannot return to face-to-face classes anytime soon. In addition, neither do children who live with people with immunodeficiency, who take some type of medication that changes the immune system. Therefore, if your child has contact with anyone in the risk group, ideally, they should not return to face-to-face classes until the pandemic is absolutely under control.
For families who live with people who have hypertension, diabetes or obesity, the ideal is to reach a consensus with a doctor. If those who live with the child are healthy and the parents went back to work, then consider returning if that is your only option for coverage. It may even be a better decision than staying with a relative in the risk group or in environments that are not appropriate. It is essential that the child is in an environment that encourages their development and follows all the safety protocols. Parents have to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong decision but to assess the risks and benefits and which is the most conscious decision.
How to prepare your little one
If the family has adapted well to quarantine and intends to stay that way because they think it is not the time to return, explain that they do not feel safe due to the contagion of the virus, which our country has not yet managed it to control. If this is the case, speak it sincerely and clearly, but in a way that your little one understands.
If the parents remain home but decide to send their children in, but then anxiously interrogates the child multiple times about safety measures at school, if the child wore a mask all the time, the child will notice the concern and may also be anxious and fearful. This would add much stress to the child so it is good that you are mindful of how to have this conversation.
If you feel the return is right, you need to prepare your little one. A few days before they return, explain the scenario we are experiencing and that the school is now ready to receive them safely. Tell them that they will meet their friends again, but how that will look – smaller groups, only a few days, etc. Explain that they can be unconcerned that everyone is being cautious and caring for each other and, to stay safe they need to take some precautions. In this case, parents are the best role models. On the internet, it is possible to find many recreational activities that teach in an appropriate way for the age group on how we should talk about this new normal and things to do to ensure children’s own safety.
It is also necessary to align the expectations of your little one, so talk to them to know if they are afraid to stay away from parents or get the disease. If they have any resistance to returning to school, it is important to respect and validate their feelings. Try to understand the reasons and give them time to assimilate that they will need to undergo another change.
Schools have been helping parents at this time, sending activities that teach how to live in this new reality, guiding parents on a gradual return and what the new school will be like. We know that it would be very difficult for parents to make it through this transition on their own, so reach out for help if you need!