My kids went back to school this week, as did thousands of others. I know every state is a bit different (I have a friend in Mississippi whose kids went back nearly 2 weeks ago!) but we are certainly in the throes of the back-to-school season.
And as much as I'm sick of hearing about Covid - perhaps you are, too - but it's a necessary evil these days. Nearly everything we do needs to be run through the "Covid filter." And for back-to-school, that means thinking about how the school is handling safety, cleaning, social distancing, sick students and staff, and quarantines. In all of my circles, I'm hearing questions like, "Are they going to close my kid's school?" and "What happens if lots of people at school are sick?" Perhaps even more importantly, we are asking what to do if we need to work and our kids are sick. Not all employers are being so free with the remote workspace option right now.
I wish I had answers. And to be honest, I don't think ANYONE has answers to all the questions. But there are some things you can do to ease the uncertainty right now:
Familiarize yourself with your school's Covid plan. I imagine you've been receiving lots of emails and could be ignoring them at this point. But stay up to date. Know where they stand and what their plan is. If you haven't been getting emails, check the school or district website. If there's nothing posted there, give the school a call. You're not the only parent wanting to know.
Familiarize yourself with your work's Covid plan (for yourself and for being home for sick kids). Under what conditions should you stay home? What happens if you need to stay home with sick family members? Will you need to quarantine for a period of time? Do you need to take sick time? Can you arrange to work from home?
Decide your family's mask plan, if your state/school/district permits parents to make those decisions. If you decide to opt out of the mask expectation, be sure you make it official. Our school offered a form for families wanting their kids to NOT wear a mask. Again, the school has probably sent emails and posted this information on the school/district website.
Communicate your mask plan to your child(ren). Don't assume they know what is best or what you think about the matter. Be clear about what your expectations are and then follow up to be sure your child is following through at school. I find it's best to explain the reasons for our decisions in this area. If you can tell your child the rationale behind your decisions, they can better uphold your expectations and tell others why they are doing what they are doing. This is part "I'm telling you" and part "discussion." They should be able to ask questions about why they are doing what they are doing, and they should be able to tell you what they think of it. But be sure they know it's not a negotiation.
KEEP YOUR CHILD HOME IF HE/SHE IS SICK. I can't stress this one enough. Yes, it can bring up more uncertainty (do you have to go to work, how will the school handle your child being gone, how long is quarantine, the list goes on). But it's safer all around if you just keep your child home for the required quarantine period. Again, check your school's website for that policy. Explain to your child that even though they may not "feel that bad" everyone experiences being sick differently and it's important not to spread their germs. These days, kids should totally know this but reinforcement is good.
Go easy on the teachers, they really are doing the best they can. In all likelihood, they did not make the decisions you have to live with. They may not even agree with how the school is handling the situation. But it's their job. Yes, they love your child(ren), but it's also a job. They do what they have to do. And they are dealing with the same frustrations (work, family, personal health) that you are. So remember to take your issues to the right person (policy - school; your child - following mask guidelines; teacher - classroom and learning concerns).
Offer grace. Then, offer some more. We all make our own decisions. Don't assume everyone agrees with your positions on vaccines or masks. I'm not the vaccine police - I trust you to make the best decision for your family's health needs. While not everyone sees these issues as "choices," they really are. And we can still lovingly respect each other if we make different choices. So love first. If you want to understand, then ask some loving (not judgy) questions. But then understand it's okay to disagree. Be sure your children understand the concept of "agree to disagree" with love and grace as well. That will help alleviate stress at school.
Back to school can be fun, even with Covid hanging over our heads. Encourage your kids to find fun this year and they'll soon ignore the Covid stuff.
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