Back to School: The (Un)Official Pre-K Pandemic Planning Guide

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Back to school is usually a time of excitement. For children, they get to see friends, meet a new teacher, learn, grow, and play. For parents . . . FREEEEEEDOOOOOM! I joke, but seriously, there has always been a collective sigh of relief among parents when the kiddies head back in the fall, mostly because they are in a safe environment, entrusted to teachers who love them dearly and want them to succeed as much as we do.

This year is markedly different, for obvious reasons (#thanksCovid). New protocols will be in place, and we as parents must prepare our children for this new experience, especially our littlest ones who may not fully grasp what is going on but are perceptive enough to know something’s up. 

(Un)Official Pre-K Pandemic Planning Guide

For the Kids

Depending on your school or daycare, there may be some variations on exactly how things are handled; but you can pretty much guarantee there will be additional cleaning, spacing, temperature checks, and probably mask wearing for part or all of the day. Here are some things we are doing in our house now, in order to make them standard procedure for our school days.

  1. Practice with a mask. If your school is requiring masks for any portion of the day, don’t wait till the last minute to get your child used to it. My mom sewed one for my son to wear around the house. He wasn’t thrilled about it at first, so we also made sure several of his beloved stuffies had ones to match! This was a big help in normalizing it since he doesn’t have siblings to emulate. Also, letting him help pick out masks definitely increased chances he will wear them down the road! We found some cute ones from Crayola and Disney, but they’re pretty ubiquitous these days.
  2. Invest in a reliable thermometer. We are doing temp checks at breakfast on him and ourselves these days for two reasons. First, he will be checked daily as he enters school, so it won’t seem out of the ordinary if we’ve been doing it for a month or so prior. Second, it’s good to know how you “run.” If your healthy temp is consistently higher or lower than 98.6, knowing where you fall on the continuum can help you determine if you are in fact running a fever.
  3. Make any new changes fun. One of the protocols at our school is drop off and pick up will now be a car line, as opposed to walking the kids to class daily, in order to limit people in the building. Because of this, we made a big deal about turning his car seat forward facing and having him show us how he could climb in and out by himself. Demonstrating this independence allows him ownership of the situation and active participation in the new procedure.
  4. Practice proper handwashing. Obviously, this is something we have been doing for the duration, but ensuring your child can independently wash with soap while counting to 20 or singing the ABCs is one less thing for his teacher to deal with. We are also “catching” sneezes and coughs in our elbow, because we all know that is something even grownups need a reminder on!
  5. Communicate clearly. Explaining WHY we are doing the things we are doing helps solidify the task as a habit, and using simple, age appropriate explanations informs without causing anxiety.

For the Adults

Let’s be real, things are totally crazy right now. We are stressed, worried, overwhelmed, busy, tired and a myriad of a LOT of other emotions. But the most important things to remember are:

  1. Lead by example. Kids are extraordinarily perceptive, and if you are complaining about all the new things happening, they will pick up on that negativity and they will push back too. Putting a positive spin on things will drastically ease the transition for everyone. Allowing your kids see you have bought into this “new normal” creates trust they are doing the right thing. Wear masks when appropriate, take your vitamins, create new traditions, and most of all, be that soft place to fall for them. Not every day will be perfect; everyone is going to have a rotten day here and there, and that’s OK too.
  2. Take care of yourself. Parenting in a pandemic is no joke. Even when we are able to take off the parent hat after the kids go to bed, there are plenty of other things to stress over: jobs, our own parents, finances, I could go on and on. However you need to decompress, do it. Write, talk to your partner, call a friend, exercise, meditate, go out in your backyard and scream at the top of your lungs (try not to scare the neighbors), anything to ease the tension and lighten the load. You can’t pour from an empty cup. 
  3. Be kind. As another of my fellow bloggers acknowledged, the “Mommy Wars” are alive and well. We are all in very different boats, but judging each other is not going to help anybody. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.

As we head back to school this year, things are looking very different, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t make it a positive experience. This is truly an “attitude is everything” situation.

What are some of your strategies for navigating back to school in these unprecedented times?

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Laura P
Laura Prewitt, 38, is a proud native of Birmingham, having lived here all life with the exception of college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a semester abroad in Spain. After graduating in 2004, she moved back to attend UAB, receiving a Masters in Communication Management. Laura has worked in fields ranging from service industry and event planning, to waste management and business development/marketing for a local startup company specializing in custom software development. She is currently a full time SAHM but does take on the occasional freelance marketing project, and is excited for the opportunity to write and share with other parents. Laura has been married to Michael, a senior financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, since 2012 and they have one son, Tristan (3). In her *limited* spare time Laura loves cooking (also eating!), watching sports (mostly football), travelling, reading, going to concerts and experiencing all the fun things Birmingham has to offer!

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