Written by: Amy Sloane
COVID-19 has put all of us at risk for severe health issues. It’s also put our children in the longest time out possible, and they did nothing to deserve it! No matter what day schools open again, we’re going to have to get ready for the fact that this virus is part of our world.
Hand Sanitizer Triggers
Many schools just don’t have space or the facilities to have a sink in each room. To protect themselves, kids will need to learn to sanitize after certain triggers. For example, a “new space” can mean the “next squirt”. A simple way to encourage this habit is to promote the use of color awareness. Make sure that your child’s lunch container includes a red pin, ribbon, or tag. This “stop sign” will remind them to wash, or at least sanitize, a few minutes before they eat.
If your child is old enough to mask, they’re old enough to learn to handle a mask safely. Invest in some Ziploc bags and put new masks in them. Stash a couple of these new disposable masks in your child’s backpack. Also, put a sealable bag in there that is empty. If you have a Mr. Yuck sticker or something similar, place this on the bag. Teach your child to remove their mask by the ear elastics only and place it in the yuck bag before they eat, and to put on a fresh one at the end of their meal. Make sure they have one for after recess, choir, or any class that will get their mask particularly damp. Practice never touching the mask, and if they do, remind them to wash or sanitize right after.
Depending on the risks to your particular child, you may want to have them wear gloves as well. Again, safe handling is key to gaining full protection from a pair of disposable gloves. Make sure your child removes them from the heel of the hand down, turning the glove inside out as they go until they have a balled-up glove, which they can capture on the other hand as they slide that one-off. Gloves will be a particular challenge for younger kids, but those are the kids that are the most tactile and in need of the most protection. If your child suffers from any immunodeficiency or health risk that could be exacerbated by exposure to coronavirus, consider having them get comfortable with gloves.
Each year, schools struggle with outbreaks of head lice. Of course, this is in no small part due to the face that we’ve promoted the evolution of a strain of lice that survives all known poisons, but it’s also because kids like to connect physically. One hug between friends can cause a lot more trouble than just lice, however. As hard as it is, we need to teach our kids to be hands-off for the foreseeable future. As possible, promote waving instead of hugging. Make sure all of their belongings have specific kids labels. Make sure your kids know that those labels mean that those items are theirs and should not be touched by anyone else.
If your child struggles with allergies or has a hard time remembering to cough or sneeze into her elbow, consider making her an elbow towel. This item can be made from something as simple as the top off an on old tube sock, or as fancy as a bandana gathered on wide elastic. Encourage your child to wear one every day, and as soon as they get home, make it part of the routine to put the elbow towel in the wash, or a sealable bag, discard or wash their dirty masks, take off their gloves and wash their hands. With a front door routine, you can put your kids on the team of trying not to bring the virus into the house.
Finally, make space for shoes by the door most commonly used. Put down an old towel and spritz it with a mild bleach solution. Set all the shoes on this towel. It doesn’t take much bleach to break down the coating on the virus and render it harmless. However, it’s easy to pick up contaminants on your shoes and, while we sanitize our hands on a regular basis, our shoes tend to stay dirty.
The shut-down will end, and many of us will be exposed to the virus no matter how cautious we are. However, with diligence by every member of the family, you may be able to protect the most vulnerable from exposure while our hospitals are severely overloaded.