For parents facing uncertain school schedules, new ways of working and concerns about the health and safety of their families, life in a pandemic is stressful enough. Add in the potential for children to feel overwhelmed and many families feel they are in no-win situations.
Keeping children home can help minimize potential exposure to COVID-19, but limits their contact with friends and teachers. On the other hand, sending kids to a center or school to learn and socialize with others can lead to concerns about exposure to COVID-19.
“Families have much to consider when it comes to making a decision about what is best for them,” said Dr. Elanna Yalow, chief academic officer of KinderCare Learning Centers. “Fortunately, their fears quickly turn to relief once they see health and safety protocols, the success in keeping our children and staff safe and how excited their children are to be with friends and classmates. Once you move past the difficult decision, the rewards are profound.”
Put safety first. When considering a center or school, make sure it’s not only following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health department guidelines when it comes to masks and social distancing, but look for additional safety measures such as restricted access to classrooms, health screenings upon entry, handwashing throughout the day and frequent cleaning and sanitizing. Knowing the steps teachers and staff take to keep children safe can help confirm you’re making the best choice for your family.
There are social and emotional benefits to returning to school or child care. According to a ParentsTogether study, nearly half of parents surveyed said their child is struggling with mental health or behavioral problems because of the pandemic. Children typically thrive with social stimulation and outlets for strong emotions, two things that are challenging for many families to offer right now. School can provide children with a safe place to continue their social, emotional and academic development, enhanced by the opportunity for social interaction with people outside of their immediate families.
“When COVID first started, my sweet, carefree child was upset and frustrated with life,” said Kristine, a parent of an 8-year-old who attends day care. “As we prepared for third grade, it became clear we needed an ally in navigating this new abnormal. After enrolling in a child care center, Connor now has friends to talk about and activities and crafts to show me. He feels normal again.”
Make the transition easier. “Routines can be comforting to children,” Dr. Yalow said. “Just think about how excited they are to rejoin their friends and teachers after a typical summer break. We have seen that enthusiasm magnified this year as children have returned to our programs.”
Once children settle into a more typical routine, parents can feel a sense of relief seeing them engaged in learning and interacting with their peers and teachers. When it comes to sending your child to school or a child care program during the pandemic, every family has to make the decision that feels best for them. When you’re ready, there are safe and engaging programs available for your child.