Advice Column, Education, Parenting

Back to school with a difference

  • Nasreen Cariem
  • Category Advice Column, Education, Parenting

As the lockdown curtain slowly begins to rise, endless thoughts and emotions engulf our minds. There is an overwhelming urge to return to life as we know it, coupled with the uncertainty and disappointment in our minds regarding the rhetorical question, ‘Is this how it’s always going to be from now on?’  ‘For how long will we continue having to wear masks?’ ‘When will social distancing end?’ There is an overwhelming need to feel the certainty of safety, from that which we cannot see and cannot feel. 

The terms Covid 19 and Corona virus seems to remain on our minds all the time as we all try to create a life as normal as abnormally possible for ourselves and our children under extremely abnormal circumstances. Some have already begun re-exploring the outdoors; malls are starting to fill up once again. Although it can be understood that being under lockdown has affected all of us in so many ways.  This includes having a natural need to enjoy the outdoors and start doing ‘normal’ activities of daily living once again which excludes being at home. With the South African regulations of level 3 of lockdown settling in, there seems to be a slight sense of excitement yet an undertone of fear and loss. This is coupled with a stronger sense of understanding and acceptance of the notion and magnitude of the fact that we are living within a pandemic.

Is this advisable though to start going out again? Whilst the need for nature’s best source of vitamin D is long overdue for all of us, it still is not safe for us to go out to public spaces where we are among so many people gathering. Social distancing and physical distancing will still be a compulsory requirement for months to come. Regardless of whether others are doing it or not, hospital wards are filling up, infection rates continue to be on the rise and more and more deaths are being reported daily. We live in an era of self-gratification, where we want what we want and we make sure that we get it. Now that we do not have control, it is so important that we do not let our feelings of frustration and helplessness result in us losing sight of the bigger picture, which is that we have to continue to practice short term sacrifices for our very own long term benefit. New Zealand has managed to combat the virus by maintaining adequate social distancing and isolation. If they can do it, so can we South Africa!

This needs to be regarded for ourselves and especially for the sake of our most vulnerable ones, namely our elderly and our children especially as we prepare them for the next phase, school reintegration. Some schools have recently begun with the phasing in of children getting back to school for the first time since lockdown, much to the dismay of parents. Although studies in China and Russia have shown that children are at low risk of fatalities of this disease. How do we know that our kids will be safe and will not contract the virus? 

The sad reality is that we do not know. Therefore we can only ensure that we maintain the regulations of social distancing and required precautions so that we are able to enjoy a meaningful quality of life with our children as well as our parents and grandparents long term, as opposed to short term gains and possibly not being around long enough to live a fulfilling life due to a virus. So how do we protect our kids who will have to go to school? Here are a few tips I have put together to enable as far as possible comfort and safety for our children: 

  • Begin with the mental state of mind: It is vital to ensure that one’s children remain calm and collected. This can only be achieved by parents remaining calm, despite how difficult this may be. Ensure that children are able to express their fears and emotions about returning to school and be there to comfort them
  • Knowledge is power: Parents have to ensure that children are adequately informed and educated regarding the necessary precautionary measures to help them feel in control and more at ease regarding being at school. These measures include the constant wearing of masks, not touching their faces, constantly sanitising and maintaining a constant 1.8 metre distance between them and other children. 
  • A good suggestion is taking double precaution with a regular mask as well as a shield mask, as children can easily forget not to touch their face and that is where the shield mask being worn over the regular mouth and nose mask comes in handy. It is also important to remember that the Covid19 virus is also spread through touching the eyes, nose and mouth with a contaminated hand as well as should saliva droplets simply through conversation enter the eyes. Hence enabling your child to wear the face shield is important.
  • If possible, single seated desks are extremely important to enable distancing between children. If not possible, then it is imperative where possible that partitioning be placed between children in double desk seating.
  • Ensure that your child has a pocket sized sanitizer with them to ensure that they are constantly sanitising themselves. 
  • Limit the handling of money for your children by ensuring that you have packed adequate lunch and healthy snacks for your children in their lunch bags. It is important to remember that should you or your child touch a surface which has been previously been handled by a virus carrier or even sneezed upon by a virus carrier, it can result in you or them contracting the virus.
  • If your child or a member of your family has tested Covid19 positive, please ensure that they remain at home in isolation for at least 2 full weeks or more.
  • Try to arrange with teachers for work to be typed and handed in online, thereby limiting the use of communally touched surfaces such as pens, paper and stationery.
  • Ensure that school uniforms are washed daily and all parts of the skin are covered to prevent cross contamination.
  • Ensure that boys’ hair are kept short and girls’ hair are tied back to prevent irritation to their face which may cause them to touch their face. 
  • Ensure that their lifts arrive before dismissal time if possible so that they are able to get straight into the car and thereby further enabling social distancing.
  • If your child is currently battling with chronic conditions even if merely seasonal, kindly consult with their medical specialist or paediatrician to ascertain as to whether it is safe for them to go to school. 
  • Also remember to communicate well with the school to inform them of your child’s conditions.
  • Remind your children that grandparents are at high risk and by them going to school and being exposed would mean that social distancing from grandparents and relatives is actually an act of love during these difficult times we find ourselves in.
  • Refrain from enabling your kids to partake in any sporting activities with others as this would easily cause spreading of the virus.

Furthermore it is important that we remain calm for the sake of our children by ensuring that we get enough sleep and rest as well, so that we do not expose them to our own stress and so that we can be our absolute best for them. It is also of paramount importance that we encourage positivity and humour among our children and to let them know that this will also eventually pass, no matter how long it takes. This will encourage your child to handle crises with a strong mind and a sense of calm. It will also encourage them to look at the brighter side of life whenever faced with their own predicaments of life.

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