Dr. John Good

Back-to-school readiness amid the COVID-19 pandemic means taking precautions.
Parents and guardians, for example, need to ensure their children receive a comprehensive health checkup from their family health care provider before classes begin. A checkup should include school-required vaccinations that protect against “traditional” diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, not to mention polio, diphtheria, tetanus and, of course, the seasonal flu.
This may be the first time your child is returning to campus after COVID-19 school shutdowns began in spring 2020. Did you know, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that many young people’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing have been impacted by the pandemic?
These impacts can include dealing with drastic changes in routine, breaks in continuity of health care and learning, loss of safety and security, as well as missed significant life events.
These can be especially traumatic to children. And let me note that trauma — especially at the developmental stages during grade school — could impact them throughout their lifespan.
COVID-related jitters are real and should not be underestimated. I want to stress how important it is to support your children if they experience anxiety around returning to school and be ready to answer their questions.
Excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits and trouble paying attention or concentrating are all signs of stress in children and are important to monitor.
What should families do if children are struggling? Reassuring them that they are safe and taken care of is vitally important, as is giving honest, accurate information.
Among the ways to help kids cope are to maintain a normal routine and to talk, listen and encourage them to express their feelings.
Teach practical tips to stay healthy, such as proper hand hygiene and sanitizing techniques. It can also be critically important to talk about how to take precautions when they are at school, such as not sharing toys or materials, keeping their distance from other students and, of course, wearing a mask.
In regard to masks, parents should take note that the CDC has recently recommended universal indoor masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools — regardless of vaccination status.
Speaking of vaccines, it’s a major issue that families must take into full consideration: deciding if and when a child may be ready for the COVID-19 shot. Certainly, the emerging Delta variant and escalating rate of new infections are cause for greater concern when it comes to protecting the immunity of our loved ones.
It’s important to note the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC, recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 12 or older within the scope of the federal emergency use authorizations.
Among other tips, parents should make sure to not send children to school with symptoms such as a high temperature, sore throat, cough and headaches or body aches. Families should be familiar with local COVID-19 testing sites in case anyone in the household needs to be tested.
I highly recommend that families have an emergency plan. Think of it as a health safety strategy that should include emergency contacts and the school’s emergency protocols — and what may be involved if there is an outbreak at the school and your child has to be quarantined for two weeks period.
Heading back to class this coming school year is going to be wholly different than before. We are living in the time of COVID-19, and we and our children must learn to how to be safe and secure.
(Dr. John Good is a pediatrician and medical director of the Optum Rio Rancho Clinic.)