Caring for your family’s health & safety during another pandemic school year

As the school year gets underway again against the backdrop of COVID-19, many still feel unsure of how things will unfold, or may already be experiencing the twists and turns of school closures.

Last year, dramatic changes to how school was conducted required immense flexibility on the part of kids and parents alike. As the school year gets underway again, many still feel unsure of how things will unfold, or may already be experiencing the twists and turns of school closures. Even those enjoying the return to in-person schooling may feel stressed or anxious, especially regarding the spread of COVID-19.

Mind your family’s mental wellbeing

In times of uncertainty, like the one we find ourselves in now, taking steps to bolster your and your child’s emotional wellbeing can be incredibly helpful. The following are some principles to guide you as you engage with your child during another season of unpredictability.

Model how to share your feelings

Many parents think that they can’t share difficult or upsetting feelings with their children. But acknowledging how you’re feeling and modeling how to deal with challenging emotions may help your child learn what to do the next time they feel the same way. If your worry, sadness or anxiety becomes so intense that it is difficult for you to manage, it is important to seek support from your loved ones or a mental health professional. A Cleo Guide can help you find the resources right for you.

Affirm your child when they share their worries or fears

Be sensitive and attentive, and reassure them that their feelings are natural. Let them know they are not alone and that you’ll face their worries together.

Reflect on your resilience

The past year and a half has been full of unexpected changes and challenges. While it hasn’t been easy, your family is here and you’ve made it to another new school year. Talk with your children about all the ways how you have adapted to changes in the past. What helped you when times were challenging and what did you learn from those experiences?

Cleo members know they can turn to their personal Cleo Guide for questions about COVID-19, adjusting to a new school year, and so much more. Learn how Cleo’s personalized, clinically-designed support for starting and raising a family can help your employees thrive.

Focus energy on those things you can control

With so many unknowns, it can be helpful to focus on the factors you can control. While you can’t predict how the pandemic will develop during the school year, you can have a plan ready for how you’ll adjust your lifestyle as risk levels may rise and fall.

Draft a plan

Check out tiered rating systems that use rates of virus transmission to judge risk in your local area. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses local positive case rates to assign a risk level. The tracker helps identify what you and your family can think about doing based on the risks in your area. Tools like the New York Times case trackers can help you discover if positive cases are rising in your area.

Then, decide safety precautions you think your child should take at each tier. For example, if cases are lower in your area, you may follow base-level safety precautions. But as cases rise and reach a higher tier, you may choose to follow more.

To inform your plan, research factors such as your child’s health, your school’s policies, and your child’s caregiving and community needs.

  1. Check in with your healthcare provider. Ask your child’s health care provider about what safety precautions they recommend your family take. Safety precautions may include wearing a face mask, practicing hand hygiene, physically distancing 6 feet or more from others, and staying home.
  2. Check what safety measures your school is implementing. The World Health Organization and CDC recommend that teachers, staff, and students use face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that schools encourage vaccination among eligible childcare and education providers to prevent transmission.If your school hasn’t openly communicated safety measures to you already, ask what precautions they require for staff and students. Your school should have a plan to increase safety precautions if the risk of transmission in your area increases. School safety measures may include:
    • Limiting class size
    • Playing outside and wearing a mask
    • Performing regular screening testing
    • Improving ventilation
    • Encouraging hand hygiene
    • Encouraging staying home when sick
    • Contact tracing during outbreaks
    • Cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces daily
    • Policies for physically isolating sick students when necessary
    • Virtual learning options
  3. Consider who your child spends time with. If your child spends time with older adults or those who have underlying health conditions, you may want to be more careful. The adults in your child’s life can also become fully vaccinated to keep your child’s risk lower. A growing body of evidence indicates people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to have an asymptomatic infection or spread the virus to others than people who are not fully vaccinated.

While you don’t know when or how exactly things will change, you can take reassurance in knowing what you’ll do when the time comes. Remember, you can always revisit this plan, and it’s encouraged to consult your healthcare provider when making decisions about your child’s health and safety.

Dr. Valentine-Minion, Clinical Lead for Child Psychology at Cleo, shares how parents can manage COVID-19 risk at school by practicing safety precautions and consulting health guidelines.

Note: This content has been reviewed by Dr. Stephanie Long, Cleo’s Director of Clinical Operations. Cleo aims to give the most accurate information, but details and recommendations about the pandemic may have changed since this piece was published. For the latest information, please check out resources from the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and local public health departments.