Many of us are experiencing feelings of fatigue that are new to us: “Coronavirus fatigue,” “social distancing fatigue,” and “mask fatigue.” We have been home with our families for over three months without the distraction of going into school or work or socializing.
As restrictions loosen (and could tighten up again), we begin to fantasize about what it will be like to return to some of our previous routines, including day camp, school, and daycare. Keep in mind that things will not return to “normal” once children return to camp and the classroom. There will be, at least for the most part, a new normal—one that may include: mask-wearing caretakers, counselors, and teachers; morning welcome screenings with temperature measuring; being asked the same questions day after day; new illness policies; a lower bar for sending home children who are not feeling well; new policies for return after being sick.
There will be a robust emphasis on handwashing, covering coughs, sneezes, and not touching the T-Zone (eyes, nose, mouth). Some kids may wear masks to camp or school. Activities, schedules, and seating will need to be audited to accommodate safe spacing, and the number of people in a space will likely be limited.
It is imperative that we talk with our kids now about what things may look like and feel like in the coming weeks and months. You, as the parent, get to set the tone, share the messages at an age-appropriate level, set the stage in a way that you see fit.
Now is also the time to be modeling the behaviors and skills your child will need to use at camp or school: meticulous hand washing with soap and scrubbing for 20 seconds; keeping a distance from those who are coughing or not feeling well; keeping our hands off our faces (not easy for any of us); covering coughs and sneezes; what to do if we cough or sneeze in our hands. Most of you have been working on this long before COVID-19, but now you need to find the momentum to keep it going.
We all must work to maintain and strengthen our immune systems, so we are up for the task when we head back into the midst of other humans. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, and moving our bodies every day.
Speaking of the immune system, this is not the time to delay necessary vaccinations. Your child’s provider should be seeing patients for well checks and needed vaccinations. Call and schedule these important visits.
It’s essential that infants and toddlers continue to receive their immunizations on time. Immunizations keep infants and children safe by protecting them from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough (pertussis). The second round of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), as well as varicella will still be required for kindergarten. We cannot return to camp, school, or day care only to find ourselves dealing with a measles outbreak as our communities gather back together.
There is much to consider, sort, digest, and adjust to during this health crisis. If we, the adults, are feeling the stress, we know that our kids are, too. Preparing them (and ourselves) for a healthy return to care, camp, and school can help increase confidence and reduce anxiety.
School counselors, as well as local mental health programs, may be able to help you and your family. It is not too early to begin filling toolboxes with the skills and knowledge that will help our children make healthy, successful transitions back to camp and school.
Susan Schwartzman, BSN, RN is the school nurse at Strelitz International Academy and cannot wait to be back with her school community (safely) in the fall. For the past 20 summers she has been a camp nurse at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. Susan lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, Eric.