Back-to-school season is different this year because of the ongoing global pandemic. Some schools are returning to the classroom, while others are going with online learning or launching hybrid schedules.
With so much uncertainty, parents will have to approach this year's back-to-school season with special considerations. Here are tips to make it a safe, smooth transition for you and your family.
Tips for going back to school in uncertain times
1. Stock up on supplies
Students will need certain staples, such as notebooks, pens and erasers, regardless of whether they participate in remote or in-person education. However, if your child is heading back into the classroom, they'll also need new items like masks, hand sanitizer and an easy-to-clean lunch box. If your child is staying home, they may need a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a webcam to join lessons.
2. Understand your school's COVID-19 policies
The pandemic is constantly evolving, so stay informed about your district's or institution's policies and procedures. Make sure you understand what guidelines are in place for cleaning, physical distancing, face coverings, temperature checks, testing and other measures. College students and their parents may also want to ask about the procedures being taken to sanitize dorms.
3. Start the conversation
Be honest with your children that the situation could change unexpectedly, but reassure them that schools are taking precautions to keep everyone safe. Each child will have a different experience, so give them a space to share their fears and questions. Talk about the differences they can expect.
4. Teach your child healthy routines
Have your child get comfortable wearing a mask for increasingly longer periods of time. Train them in good hand-washing hygiene, as well as coughing and sneezing etiquette. Likewise, be mindful about disinfecting school supplies, phones and computers frequently. See that your child gets enough sleep and eats well in order to keep their immune system strong.
5. See your doctor for immunizations
Your entire family should be up to date on required vaccinations and plan to get flu shots when available.
6. Create structure and reasonable goals
If your child will be at home, design a daily schedule with a predictable bed time, wake time and plan for balancing education and play. The consistency will help your child feel more in control during a very uncertain time.
7. Explore options for childcare
Whether you're a working parent, a single parent or have other responsibilities such as caring for an aging relative, you may need additional support now more than ever. If you aren't able to coordinate supervision with a partner or other family member, consider going in with another family to trade off days watching each other's children, or share the cost of a nanny or babysitter. Some local organizations may also offer childcare programs for working parents to keep kids entertained, engaged and safe during this time.
8. Speak with your boss.
Now is the time to be open and transparent with your manager about the complexities you face as a parent in a time when responsibilities at home are increasing and schedules are uncertain. Collaborate on a plan that allows you to fulfill your professional responsibilities while simultaneously balancing life at home.