How To Prepare Your Kids For Going Back To School Post COVID-19

How To Prepare Your Kids For Going Back To School Post COVID

The start of a new school year brings with it a host of preparations: back-to-school shopping, visits to the doctor for school physicals and immunizations, bracing children for new grade/teachers/school/friends, etc.

This year promises to require even more preparation due to complications surrounding COVID-19. As of this writing, all public schools in St. Louis city plan to begin the school year either 100% online or in a hybrid of online/in-person, while many private schools plan to start the year in either a hybrid or 100% in-person format.

While some children are heading back to school this fall, all children will eventually return. It’s challenging to prepare for the unknown, but we at Navigate STL Schools want to help by providing you with the following information/resources regardless of your back to school situation.

Preventing The Spread

Let’s begin with the basics – how can your children help reduce the spread of the coronavirus? Here are some general recommendations issued by the CDC:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Practice social distancing—keep a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your arm.
  • If you use a tissue, dispose of it immediately after you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

There will be some adaptations of these specifically for the classroom environment (e.g. masks worn by all adults and older children, keeping desks 3-6 feet apart, etc).

Communicating With Your Child

It’s a lot of information to take in – especially if you’re a child. How can parents communicate the necessary facts/guidelines to their children while at the same time being conscious of their feelings, concerns, and overall mental health?

  • Talk about what your child already knows, and check their understanding.
    • Sample conversation starters:
      • “What are your friends saying about COVID-19?”
      • “Do you have questions about coronavirus?”
      • “What types of things have you heard about coronavirus?”
  • Find out what your child is feeling.
    • Sample questions:
      • “How worried are you about coronavirus?”
      • “How do you feel when you see others wearing masks?”
      • “What do you think about going back to school?”
  • Be open and honest.
  • Talk openly and honestly with your child. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to a question. You can reply:
    • “That is a great question. I don’t know the answer, but we can ask your doctor/teacher.”

Addressing Possible Emotions

Through conversations you have with your child, you might discover some complicated emotions they are facing concerning returning to school. Here are some tips to help you navigate those.

My child is scared to go back to school. How can I help them feel at ease?

Open conversation and honesty are key here. Let them know it’s natural and okay to feel anxious. Reassure children about safety measures in place to keep students and teachers healthy and remind children how they can actively help prevent the spread of the virus. Focus on the positives – that they will be able to see their friends and teachers, and continue learning new things.

My child is nervous about wearing a mask at school. What should I say to them?

Emphasize that you understand and that it’s healthy to talk about our worries and emotions. Children might find it hard to wear masks while running or playing, but remind them that they wear masks to do their part to take care of others who may be more vulnerable.

How can I encourage my child to follow COVID-19 protocol precautions at school without alarming them?

Make things like regular hand washing fun. Incorporate a song or a dance. Stress that they are doing this to kill the invisible germs that might still be on their hands. Wearing a mask is easier if your child has a well-fitting mask, ideally one in a color or design of their choosing. Practice wearing your masks together as a family if you aren’t already.

My child is separated from some of their close friends. How can they feel more connected?

If your child’s school starts to return gradually, your child may be anxious about being separated from their friends. Remind them that schools will open again for everyone once it’s safe. Keep them informed about the status of reopening, and let them know that even if schools need to close again, learning can happen anywhere – at school and at home – and that they can also keep in touch with and support their friends online in the meantime.

Is there anything I should look out for as my child starts back at school?

In addition to checking in on your child’s physical health and learning when they go back to school, you should also keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety. When in doubt, empathy and support are the way to go. Your central focus as a parent should be to give your child a loving and safe environment. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guide, make sure that the basic physiological and psychological needs of your child are being met.

Be flexible – rules that applied to “normal” times regarding screen time, playtime, etc. are no longer valid in this most abnormal of times. Let go of some of the academic or extracurricular expectations, and simply give your child lots of love.


COVID-19 Resources for Families / Coronavirus FAQs (St. Louis Public Schools)
Return to School During COVID-19 (HealthyChildren)
How to Talk to Your Child About Coronavirus and COVID-19 (St. Jude Hospital)
Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school during COVID-19 (UNICEF)
Perfect Parenting During a Pandemic? (Psychology Today)