As parents, the role we play in keeping our children safe during this dreadful pandemic is multi-faceted and often confusing. It's a multi-faceted role because we have to be teachers, facilitators, and monitors. I can hear you thinking that what I am saying sounds like what you do all the time. So, what's different when dealing with COVID-19? The most significant difference is that the coronavirus is invisible. Protecting your children by teaching them how to do everyday tasks involves dangers or risks which they can see. You taught your kids how to safely cross a road by showing how to do so, not once, not twice, but many times until you knew that your child understood what to do. You taught her how to swim, to travel alone on a bus or plane, to handle contact with strangers, and so much more. You protected her against diseases with vaccinations and regular medical checkups.
The problem with COVID-19 is that it is invisible. How do you teach a child to protect herself against something she cannot see? Children are logical. If it's raining, they understand the need to wear a raincoat and hat. If it's hot out, they know to drink plenty of water. And so on. But an invisible danger? That's not as easy to comprehend.
This video from New York University's Langone Health offers some expert help explaining the pandemic to your children.
Teach basic protection.
Teach your children how to protect themselves by wearing a mask and washing their hands with soap and water frequently. Teach them to avoid touching their face, as that is how the virus can be transmitted. Explain social distancing and how they have to use common sense to determine how far to stay away from others. Teach them how a mask works both to protect them from contracting the disease from others, as well as possibly transmitting the disease. Learning how masks work will lead to a discussion of asymptomatic people and testing for the virus.
This video shows children how to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Teach the importance of following instructions at school.
As long as your children are in their bubble, i.e., their home, you can control and monitor their protective measures against the virus. Things become much more problematic once they leave home and head off to school. Fortunately, you have chosen to send your child to private school. So, right away, a couple of things will work in your favor. The first is the relatively small size of the community and its low student to teacher ratio. The second is the dedication of every member of staff at your child's school to every member of the community's safety. Months of detailed planning have gone into opening the school for in-person instruction. Constant monitoring and supervision make your child's school as safe as any environment outside your home can be.
Expect frequent testing and temperature taking.
The school will add frequent testing and temperature taking to the daily routine. It will be able to communicate quickly if and when a member of the community tests positive.
Expect your child to become an expert on COVID-19 and how to deal with it. That's because teachers and administrators will continually reinforce information about the virus and how to protect oneself from it.
Keep a list of any people your child comes into contact with outside of school. If she becomes sick with COVID-19, you will need to do some contact tracing of your own.
Prepare for vaccinations.
In due course, vaccines will become available. The most vulnerable members of the community will receive vaccinations first. Eventually, our children will also be vaccinated. How effective will vaccines be? Read the opinions of medical professionals and scientists. Listen to what your family doctor says. In the meantime, the simple protective measures of wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and social distancing must remain part of your children's routine.
Dealing with family gatherings and vacations
As I write this article in November 2020, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just weeks away. The pandemic has exploded in just about every state. How will you handle having your children home for a week or more? What do you say when they want their friends to come over? What do you do when your daughter asks to bring an international student home for the Thanksgiving holiday? What about visits from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? You have to think long and hard about having usual family gatherings. Gather virtually.
The international student from your daughter's boarding school needs to show you proof of a negative test before she comes into your home. Don't hesitate to ask for that. Take everybody's temperature daily.
Think back to our time as teenagers in that much simpler era. We'd sneak a cigarette or a swig of beer. No harm was done, or so we thought. After all, we were invincible. In 2020, when teenagers do forbidden stuff like having a party with no social distancing or mask-wearing, it's a death warrant. The virus doesn't care. It will strike anybody—any time. Anywhere. Discuss social gathering in-depth.
This video illustrates the aftermath of a party that some teenagers attended.
Listen to a medical professional such as Dr. Trina Blyth explain the risks of large social gatherings. They used to be normal and fun occasions. Not during the pandemic. Make sure that your teenagers understand this.
Offer to help.
Your school is doing a great job of protecting every member of its community. So, don't assume that you don't have to do anything more. Ask the school office manager if there are any staff who need assistance during these difficult times. Some groceries, clothing, a $20 bill in an envelope - little things like these will keep somebody's spirits up. And, lastly, be flexible. During this pandemic, things can change very quickly. Be ready for the unexpected.
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