Children are our world’s most precious gift. But as children, they may lack skills to protect themselves. The responsibility falls on parents and schools to safeguard children and teach them these skills. It is even better to make the children aware of any situation that may be unsafe for them so that they can tackle such people or circumstances as soon as they encounter them.
While many parents were optimistic that this new school year would be totally "normal," this is not the reality. As schools open, we are still dealing with the pandemic and ensuing Covid safety protocols. For certain schools and districts, restrictions may have been eased, and for others, it may look a lot like last school year. Either way, we have some general safety and covid-19 related safety tips for preparing your child for the 2021-2022 school year.
Taking Covid-19 Precautions
Returning to school has taken on new meaning and a new set of worries for parents and other caregivers during the age of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Schools must now balance the educational, social, and emotional needs of their students along with the health and safety of students and staff amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Safety Steps That Can Help
No safety measure is 100% effective. But these steps done together offer many layers of protection:
- Wearing masks: The CDC recommends that kids two and older and all adults wear masks when inside schools and school buses, whether or not they are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should also wear masks when outdoors in a crowded area. The mask should fit snugly and cover the nose and mouth.
- Physical distancing: Kids should try to stay at least 3 feet from others when in school. For some people (such as teachers and staff) or in some settings (like while eating or when in auditoriums), staying 6 feet apart is safer.
- Keeping clean: Washing hands well and often with soap and water or using hand sanitizer is always a good idea. So is covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of an elbow when not wearing a mask.
Testing, contact tracing, and staying home when necessary:
- For kids who feel sick: Children who have a fever or any other signs of illness should stay home until they feel better. Ask the doctor if your child needs a COVID-19 test. According to public health guidelines, kids who test positive for the coronavirus should isolate at home.
- For kids who feel well but have been exposed to an infected person: Schools will work with local health departments to identify all people who were in close contact with an infected person. All close contacts should get tested according to public health guidelines. Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine but should wear masks indoors, both in school and other settings. If they are not fully vaccinated, they should quarantine at home according to public health guidelines.
- For kids who feel well and have no known exposure: Some schools will offer screening to test healthy people regularly for the virus. Screening means testing people who feel healthy and have no known exposure to the virus to see if they have been infected without realizing it. This important safety measure lets schools identify outbreaks and take steps to stop the spread as early as possible.
Disclaimer: These safety steps are subject to change based on the most up-to-date Covid safety protocols.
Listen To Your Child's Concerns
As a parent, you play an incredibly important role as not only a trusted source of information, but also as a confidante.
It's important your child feels comfortable expressing any concerns or anxiety he or she may have about returning to school during the pandemic, so try to be as available and prepared as possible. Being vulnerable is hard, though, so you may need to be the one to initiate the conversation if the topic doesn't come up on its own.
Whether your child is concerned about having to wear a mask all day or what might happen if there's a confirmed case at school, make sure you're listening intently, empathizing often, and helping your child cope with his or her feelings reassuringly.
Whether children walk, ride their bicycle or take the bus to school, it is extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Here are some tips to make sure your child safely travels to school:
- Review your family's walking safety rules and practice walking to school with your child.
- Walk on the sidewalk, if one is available; when on the street with no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.
- Before you cross the street, stop and look left, right, and left again to see if cars are coming.
- Make eye contact with drivers before crossing and always cross streets at crosswalks or intersections.
- Teach your child the rules of the road and practice riding the bike route to school with your child.
- Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, and in a single file
- Come to a complete stop before crossing the street; walk bikes across the street
- Stay alert and avoid distracted riding
- Make sure your child always wears a properly fitted helmet and bright clothing.
- Teach your children “school bus safety rules” and practice with them.
- Go to the bus stop with your child to teach them the proper way to get on and off the bus.
- Teach your children to stand 6 feet (or three giant steps) away from the curb
- If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, teach them to walk on the side of the road until they are 10 feet ahead of the bus; your child and the bus driver should always be able to see each other.
Here Are 10 other Useful Safety Tips:
- Parents and their children should plan a route to and from school together – whatever the child's age. Discuss avoiding hazardous shortcuts that might take them out of public view.
- Kids in groups are generally safer than alone. Encourage children to walk with friends to and from school.
- Establish clear rules for play after school and review them regularly.
- Children should report suspicious behaviors or threats by other students to a teacher or counselor.
- Help children learn how to manage anger effectively. Encourage the school to provide conflict resolution training for students.
- Respect others and their belongings – refuse to bully others or steal personal property.
- Look for warning signs of a troubled child. Parents should listen to and talk with their children regularly to find out what is happening at school, both in and out of the classroom.
- Ask administrators about safety efforts. Do they control access to the school by visitors? Are all visitors required to check in and wear appropriate badges/IDs at all times?
- Request free school safety assessments to identify potential problems and upgrades needed to improve school safety measures.
- Parents should get to know their child’s friends and the friends’ parents.