School plays a crucial role in your child’s development, educational achievement, health, and well-being. As schools have reopened across New Jersey, parents, guardians, and caregivers have had to make decisions based on several factors that are best for their child, evaluating health concerns, work situations, and options for schooling.

While some schools opted for remote learning or a hybrid model this school year, many school districts selected in-person learning full or part-time.  As parents, our child’s safety and health is at the forefront of our minds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have chosen to send your child to in-person sessions at school, I recommend creating a coming home ritual that alleviates anxiety about bringing COVID-19 home and best try to protect them and your family once they return home.

If you pick up your child from school
Disinfecting should start when picking up your child from school. I suggest making it a habit to use hand sanitizer immediately before sitting down in your vehicle, or immediately after the child gets in your car. Similar to washing your hands when you get home, this could be a key first step to prevent the spread of the virus, unknowingly, in a space that is used daily.  

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Designate a disinfecting zone in your home
My first recommendation is to select a space in your home where your child can leave their bookbag, shoes, and any items that were in school during the day. This could be the entryway of your home or in the garage. Designate a large container that you can use when your child returns home to collect all the things that need to be cleaned from the day. Disinfecting their bookbag and wiping down the contents of their bookbag along with their shoes before bringing anything into your home should be a step that you incorporate into your daily routine.

Have your child shower when they return home
Since most children tend to be asymptomatic, they can be super-spreaders of COVID-19 and bring the virus into your home without your knowledge.  Switching your child’s normal bath or shower time to when they return home from school is very important.  After your child showers, wash their clothing and the mask they wore that day in hot water.

Prepare for the next day
Make sure you prepare for the next school day the evening before.  Restock hand sanitizer, clean masks, and any other necessities your child may need in their bookbag during the school day.  I also recommend packing their lunches in a brown paper bag that they can throw away at school instead of bringing a lunch bag back and forth to school every day. It is a good idea to have your child get involved in preparing for the following day.

Communicate with your child
Take this time to speak to your child about the importance of protecting themselves and others. Reiterating the importance of wearing a mask to protect others helps to emphasize the importance of the common good.

Remind your kids of the three W’s: Wear a mask, Wait 6 feet apart and Wash hands.

Although returning to school during the pandemic will most likely not feel like normal for a while.  Creating a healthy and balanced environment is important to maintain structure during this challenging time.  We must do all that we can to support our children, teachers and staff to help make this transition as safe and healthy as we can.

Dr. Pareen Lapsiwala is a Family Medicine Physician at Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, in Montville, who specializes in pediatric & adolescent medicine and women’s health.