In the midst of a global pandemic, our world has been turned upside down. With schools closed down, distance learning is becoming the reality for families around the world. Now more than ever, parents are realizing the value of teachers and just what amazing superheroes they are!
Teachers have become a touchstone to the familiar for many families. They’ve been tasked with completely changing teaching plans to fit students’ stay-at-home needs. And in many communities, they’ve become the voice of the hope to bewildered families.
To help support these educational heroes and in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8), we’ve put together some health tips teachers can share with students. Remember, some families may be avoiding the news, others may not know how to talk to their children about COVID-19 and some kids may not have heard even the basics.
The first thing to stress is that staying home is not a punishment and Mom and Dad aren’t just being mean. Instead, each of us can help protect those who might be most at risk for serious complications related to the virus. Rather than a scary situation, staying at home is a loving thing to do, a way of caring about people who need our help.
For those students who have elderly family members in the home, this is especially important. But even those who don’t have close relationships with those at risk should stay home when possible. Going out to play with friends could put other families at risk if it means spreading germs around.
In some parts of the country, stay-at-home orders are being lifted. This means we can begin to venture outside again, but it’s a good idea to manage expectations. Remind students that the virus is still around and it may be quite a while before things return to normal.
Keep Your Distance
Smaller kids may not understand why they can’t go play with friends, go see Grandma or be close to other people outside of the household. As above, remind them that this isn’t a punishment or something to be afraid of. This is a temporary situation and they’ll get to see everyone again in person before they know it. It might help to write a letter to grandparents or keep a journal of things they want to share with their friends when they get a chance to play together again.
Remind them too, if they have to go with their parents to the grocery store or other public places, it’s important to stay away from people there too. Little ones may not be able to picture what six feet apart means. Here are a few simple comparisons that may be familiar.
- The width of an average sedan.
- The length of an average sofa.
- The length of a twin or full-sized bed.
If your area is lifting restrictions and allowing people to be out and about more, social distancing is still important. Remind students that they should still do their best to observe the six-foot rule whenever they’re out in public.
Wash Your Hands
Most kids are probably hearing this from their parents, but it’s still an important tip to discuss. Remind students to wash their hands often and to avoid touching their faces. The CDC recommends using warm soapy water and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. A simple way for kids to time this is to sing a song while washing up. Need some song ideas? Here are a few fun ones:
- Happy Birthday - sing once slowly or twice at normal speed.
- Mary Had a Little Lamb - this one is roughly 20 seconds long on its own, so one run through will do.
- If You’re Happy and You Know It - replace “clap your hands” with “wash your hands” and you have a perfect hand washing song! Sing it twice through to ensure a full 20 seconds of scrubbing.
- This Little Light of Mine - one time through the chorus (until “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine”) is just about perfect.
- Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands - Pampers rewrote the lyrics to Row, Row, Row Your Boat into a fun handwashing song. It gives kids specific instructions to make sure they get all parts of their hands, so it’s great for little ones who might need the extra instruction.
Have an older audience? Teens can get in on the fun too. The chorus to plenty of popular songs will work as a 20-second timer. Try “No Scrubs” by TLC, Beyonce’s “Love on Top” or go for Queen’s “We will, we will rock you (rock you)” sung three times. For those game show fans, humming the theme song of Jeopardy will work too.
Keep Things Clean
Kids may notice Mom or Dad cleaning more often than normal in an effort to keep the virus at bay. The good news is that this is something most students can (and should) help with. Encourage young ones to pitch in by keeping things neat and clean at home. Remind them that this is a great way for even the littlest ones to be helpful to their parents.
For older kids, discuss disinfecting techniques and suggestions. Kids can help out by disinfecting frequently touched surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, tables, hard chairs, remote controls and bathroom fixtures. Remind them to let the disinfectant air dry rather than wiping it up with a d`ry towel. Teens, especially, need to remember to disinfect their phones and other devices regularly.
Wear a Mask
Most officials are recommending everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask when out in public. This means your students should also be wearing masks when they go out. To little ones, it might be alarming to see everyone wearing masks at the grocery store. For older kids, they may not want to wear a mask because it’s uncomfortable (or worse, uncool).
Remind kids that since this virus doesn’t always make people show symptoms, it’s possible to be carrying it and not even know. The only way to be pretty sure you’re not infecting people around you is to cover your mouth and nose. Rather than disposable masks, some kids might prefer to tie a bandana or scarf around their face. For crafty types, there are even patterns they can use to make their own masks in whatever color or design they like.
It’s really tempting to spend the day in front of one screen or another when stuck at home. Kids may be getting more screen time than normal these days and that’s fine, to a point. But it’s vital to their health and well-being to stay active. So rather than becoming one with the couch, it may be time to have a virtual phys ed challenge.
Encourage students to get out into the sun, but still keep their distance from others. Encourage them to be active. You might give your class a challenge to see who can do the most push-ups or jumping jacks. Host a video dance-off or see who can keep a balloon in the air the longest. Need a few more ideas? Today’s Parent has 15 suggestions to keep kids active indoors, even without much space.
Right now most of us are focused on our physical health, but it’s important that we don’t neglect our mental health. Humans are a social species and we are happiest when we maintain close relationships beyond the home. Your students may be missing the physical closeness that they typically enjoy, but that doesn’t mean they have to be cut off from friends.
Encourage kids to video chat with a few close friends, outside of class time. For young ones, this may mean virtual playdates. Mom or Dad should schedule them just like they did for the face-to-face variety. For older kids, it might be a good idea to create a virtual game night or other fun, purely social online experience.
Kids can also be helpful by checking in on older relatives or neighbors. A call to grandma might just make both parties feel a whole lot better. This can also be a fun class project. Contact a local nursing home or retirement community and see if there are residents who could use a phone buddy. Then have your students “adopt a senior”. They can read stories to one another, sing songs, or just talk about their lives. You never know – you might even be creating long term intergenerational friendships.
Get Healthcare Delivered
Finally, we all know that normal health concerns are still around during this pandemic. Yet if we get sick or injured, most people don’t want to risk exposure to COVID-19 at a doctor’s office or hospital. Instead, remind families that they can get healthcare delivered.
DispatchHealth is a mobile healthcare option that can treat almost anything your local ER handles. From sniffles to stitches, these caring teams of healthcare providers are ready to help with expert care in the comfort and safety of home. During this crisis, we can still help with all sorts of other health issues, from the common to the complex.
Our teams wear surgical masks, gloves and eye protection for every patient encounter, plus gowns and booties for patients with respiratory symptoms. We also thoroughly disinfect our kits and cars between visits. This means families can feel safe inviting us in to help you through whatever health problems you may encounter. And since we’re covered by most insurance, in most cases the visit won’t cost any more than a trip to the local urgent care would. We’ll even keep their family doctor appraised of any treatment administered. To learn more, visit https://www.dispatchhealth.com/covid-19/.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to impart to students is reassurance. This is a scary, stressful time for everyone, and kids may be afraid to open up about their fears and worries. Remind them that we’re all in this together and one day we’ll be able to return to normal. In the meanwhile, we can take some time to serve our communities, help our families, and encourage our friends and classmates. We might just make ourselves feel better in the process.