An Open Letter to Parents:

Dear Parents,

The 2020-2021 school year has finally kicked off after the longest “spring break” in history. I know it’s been tough balancing work and kids these past 6 months. I really do get it! I’m a nurse and CEO, but my most important job is being a mom to 5, including two in elementary and one in junior high. I understand the worries and concerns that have been keeping you up at night: do we choose virtual or in-person learning? How do we keep our kids and our families safe? How can we teach our kids healthy habits? 

While I can’t help you get more sleep, I can offer some helpful hints for both virtual and in-person learners that my family is following, too.

VIRTUAL LEARNERS:

Keep moving!
Sitting in front of the computer all day can drain your energy and being active can actually help boost your immune system! Take breaks from the computer as you’re able to. Get outside and ride a bike (with your helmet on, of course!), play with your pets, kick a ball. Even just a few minutes here and there will help you break up the day stay active and healthy.

Stay in touch with friends and family.
We all felt the effects of isolation when our community was in lockdown. Kids also experience negative effects of long periods in the house or away from friends and loved ones. Make time to stay in touch with their friends, classmates and extended family on the phone or video chat, or schedule socially distanced playdates and visits, if possible.

Get creative.
Even the least artsy of us can enjoy letting loose and making something with our hands. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas and many websites offer easy and inexpensive arts and crafts ideas for kids. Decorate your child’s workspace with their creations. Get in there with them and try something new as a family.

ON-CAMPUS LEARNERS:

#1 Question: What and how often should we sanitize school supplies?
Wash or sanitize masks, water bottles, and jackets or hoodies daily. You also might consider wiping down lunch boxes and backpacks daily or a couple of times a week. Also use an alcohol wipe to clean electronics such as phones, laptops, and tablets daily.

Schools are not allowing students to share supplies to reduce the contact between students so make sure your child has all the supplies he/she needs and label each item.

Watch for signs of illness:
Observe your child and keep home if they have fever or cough, diarrhea, severe headache, vomiting, or body aches. Self-screening at home is the first step to stopping the potential spread of any germs.

How to wear a mask:
Children will be wearing masks or face coverings some, or nearly all, of the school day so choose masks that fit comfortably but securely over mouth and nose. Multiple layers of fabric that still allow for easy breathing are a good choice. Also, since you’ll be washing frequently try to pick masks that don’t shrink or lose their shape when washed. Of course, disposable masks are also a great option, just be sure your child has several on-hand at school so they don’t reuse one after it has been taken off.

Wash and sanitize hands frequently.
By now this saying  is on repeat like a broken record, but it’s so vitally important and now that children are spending more time in public, it’s critical that we continue to remind them to practice good hygiene.

Prepare a plan in case in-person learning changes to virtual learning because of an outbreak. Know how you and your family will provide the tools your student needs to switch to virtual learning. Which parent will primarily monitor schooling? Where will your kids do schoolwork? Br prepared if school plans change suddenly.

You are carrying a heavy load right now serving as parent, teacher, classmate, playmate, employee, partner, friend. Remember you need to take care of yourself as well. I know, I know. It’s hard to find the time, but I can’t stress the importance of doing what is necessary to maintain your mental health. Take a walk or drink your coffee outside, enjoy your favorite foods (there are so many great to-go options), find time to work out, and interact with your support system as you can. We all recognize the important work you are doing to care for your family. Be sure you recognize it, too!

I hope this helps provide you with some tips to ease your concerns as we start this very unusual school year. At Texas Emergency Care Center, we are always here to answer your questions and care for you when you need it most.

Rhonda Sandel, R.N.
CEO of Texas Emergency Care Center