Children across the nation are heading back to school, a time of year that can bring a variety of emotions from excitement to anxiety. However, this school year has an extra layer of uncertainty amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s important to take precautions to fight the spread of the disease in the classroom — particularly as the highly contagious delta variant is circulating.
Children 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Students should wear a mask with at least two layers of tightly woven fabric. Masks should fit well, covering the nose and mouth.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine and wearing a face mask are the two most important strategies to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools and to keep children safely learning in person. Mask-wearing also can prevent the spread of other viruses that might cause them to miss school.”
Kate Connor, M.D., M.S.P.H., JHCC pediatrician, assistant professor of pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Young adds that if parents notice any worsening or persistent irritability, anxiety or sadness, they should consult their child’s pediatrician or a mental health expert.
“It’s also important for parents to be aware of their own anxiety about the return to school, so they don’t transfer it to their children,” she says.
To ease the transition into the school year, Connor and Young recommend gradually shifting children’s bedtimes back 10 minutes earlier each night in the week before school starts. In this way, they will be well rested and able to rise earlier.
Finally, the JHCC experts say parents should check with their child’s pediatrician to ensure routine vaccinations — including those required to attend class — are up to date and annual checkups have been completed before school starts.
“The past 1-1/2 years of the pandemic have brought a wave of emotions for parents and children alike,” Connor says. “Returning to in-person schooling is much needed for the health, education and overall well-being of students, so we have to prepare them as much as possible to have a safe return to the classroom.”