Keeping Our Children Safe at School During a Global Pandemic – One mother’s strategy
I have an inkling of a memory of this romantic ideal of what I thought motherhood was going to be, of what kind of mother I was going to be. Perhaps you are also familiar with the illusion. The same one that many of the mothers-to-be I have known have also daydreamed; the butterflies and summer days spent twirling under rainbows, the soft pastels and porcelain skin. The infectious giggles and raspberry kisses, the silly games and stories good night. The soft snuggles and tickle fights, the footie pyjamas and messy bed head hair.
Seven years in and that ideal has become blurry at best. Reality, rest assured, overcame my romantic ideal and offered a chaotic replacement. It was then when I realized that my reality, far removed from my lofty daydreams, offered a marathon of stumbling and bumbling, simply attempting to make it through the day because I had been up all night. Trying to maintain composure because all of a sudden all of this was bigger than me
For me, Motherhood is piles of laundry, no matter dirty or clean, sitting in baskets here and there. It is dishes in the sink, shoes on the floor next to the Lego pieces that, almost certainly, are to blame for the hushed-tones of F-bombs that fly around here far too frequently. It is me, scrambling to adjust, to keep up, to achieve balance.
Motherhood can be messy on the most epic of levels; I am talking physical and emotionally here. Emotions flex between the good and bad, as we physically fly by the seat of our pants and navigate the most unbelievable chaos we have ever experienced. At least, that’s how it felt for me.
Now, just for good measure, throw in a Global Pandemic, shut down the world, get laid off, close the schools, become a full-time SAHM again, home school your kids, be driven insane, attempt to continue growing your new business, wash your hands, stay at home, stay safe and do your best to not lose your mind.
I reside in Canada in a rural community located in Southern Ontario. Our government closed schools as March Break was beginning and they remained closed through to the end of the school year. During this time I was so incredibly grateful to live on 100 acres which offered my family the luxury of space and the great outdoors, especially grateful for this during our time of complete shutdown when we were not permitted to leave the property unless traveling for the necessities of life.
The provincial government announced last week that it has sanctioned the return of students, teachers and administrators back to school come September. Administrators, teachers and students in grade 4 and up will be required to wear a mask, while the younger students will not be. The choice to send your children to school or have them participate in a distant learning model is at the discretion of the parents. My partner and I are now in full discussion and research mode trying to figure out what our family protocols will be if our girls attend in September. How will we navigate this and ensure that we are making the best decision for our girls and our lives?
For me, preparation is paramount when attempting to manage my anxiety levels. I understand, on a rational level, that I truly have no control but when I put measures in place to make the adjustment easier then I am able to move forward without the worry or the dread or the fear that my brain loves to induce.
The planner that I am is creating solutions for every scenario that may affect us come September. When it comes to sending the kids to school I have created a few family protocols that will help to keep our girls safer in an environment that cannot be guaranteed as safe.
I have created these protocols for my daughter’s, aged 6 and 7, who will be entering grades 1 & 2. Please consider this while examining these guidelines and adjust them so that they work for your family.
People Watching and Covid-19 Conversations:
In an effort to open up a conversation about safety procedures when it comes to Covid-19 and public interaction, I plan to introduce my girls to one of my most favourite activities; people watching!
From a safe spot I’d like to observe and talk about what we see in the passers-by. Who is wearing a mask? Who isn’t? Why do think that person isn’t wearing a mask, what could be the reason? Do we need to wear masks outside? What does social distancing mean?
Or, simply allow an opportunity to observe and discuss in an effort to remove any potential fear or to discuss that fear. I recognize how my anxiety was triggered through all of this and want to ensure that my girls do not felt anxious or have any outstanding questions or concerns.
A classroom filled with one teacher and many students is going to be very difficult and in my opinion, not at all possible, to keep sterilized. While students will be directed to wash their hands and use sanitizer, the surfaces on which they eat upon will not be germ free, especially at the halfway point of the school day. So create a lunch kit for each of your kids to take to school with them.
The Lunch Kit to include:
- A clean kitchen towel, each day, to act like a picnic blanket for your child’s desk
- A clean and packaged set of re-useable eating utensils
- A healthy and balanced lunch with prepared items – the teachers will not want to touch your child’s food or anything that will get close to their face – In my case, I will making sure that all foods for lunch are bite sized and can be easily eaten with provided utensils.
- All waste to be disposed of correctly and everything else packed back into the lunch box and brought home for sanitation and re-stocking.
I have outfitted our vehicles with hand sanitizer pumps fashioned from empty, cleaned soap dispensers. They sit in the cup holder and I don’t have to remember to throw it in my bag each time I leave the house.
As I got to thinking about how I would equip my daughters with sanitizer for school it occurred to me that providing a securable sanitizer unit that attached to a belt loop would be the easiest and most affordable solution. I searched online for small containers that made use of a key ring or carabineer to attach. Most of what I found offered multiple units, which meant I would have back stock for those inevitable moments of misplacement.
Pack a Spare, Clean Mask:
If your kids, like my kids, are sent to school with a replacement bag of spare clothing, socks and underwear add a clean, spare mask in a separate resealable bag and if it is used, replace it with a fresh one for the next school day.
This suggestion would be easiest fulfilled if each child had a minimum of 2 masks per day, so that a fresh mask was always guaranteed. In my case I would need to have 20 masks on hand to fulfill this for my two children. I don’t do laundry everyday and let’s be real, I probably won’t come September either and having access to 20 masks will reduce my stress and workload. I will shop around, support local if I can, to find the very best deal that my family will be able to afford, even if that requires a re-think on the amount of masks to have on hand.
Just a note: I will be labelling all my girls masks with the hope that if they are misplaced they will find their way back to us.
My kids LOVE to take their temperature! There was a time in their pre-school days where they needed to check multiple times a day. No symptoms necessary.
Now, admist the Coronavirus pandemic, checking temperatures will become standard practice in most households. We have been advised that we are not permitted to send a child with fever to school and most certainly discouraged about medicating a slight fever to send a child t o school.
So, enter a new morning routine! Because they love taking their temperature I will be gifting each of my daughters their very own thermometer. They will be responsible for taking their temperature every morning (under supervision, of course) and we will record the number and chart the data. I see this as an interesting and fun way to introduce graphing and I hope they are as excited about this one as I am!
Sending our kids into the classroom during a Global Pandemic is a decision I can only assume each and every parent is struggling with. I know I am. It’s not easy to know what to do. The thought of sending my children out into the world surging with a virus is one of the scariest things I have ever faced as a mother. So far, through all of this, I have not been without them. Each public outing I was there to protect them.
No matter the decision, each and every family will have to do what’s best for their individual situation. The right decision is the one that supports your family in the best way possible during these unprecedented times.
I simply hope that this article can provide the reader with a direction or a course of action, created to improve the transition and any anxiety caused by the thought and stress of returning to school in September.
So, whatever you do, do it with kindness, smile behind your mask and wash your hands.
Thanks for reading.
Christy @ beholdher.life