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Returning to School (Or Not) During COVID: Tips for Safety & Success

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Schooling During COVID

COVID-19 has shutdown much of the world and upended many of our norms. But now most schools and daycares across the world have already, or will soon be resuming classes, either virtually or in person. For many parents, this has created yet another dilemma on top of all the stressful changes the COVID pandemic has brought. Here are a few suggestions to help navigate this transition as smoothly as possible, whether your child will be returning to school or learning from home during COVID.


Many of you will be either home schooling or managing your child's virtual learning for the first time. These tips will help you to create the ideal learning environment for your child.

Establish a routine.

Even though they will be at home, establishing a routine early on will help your child get through their day and will create normalcy during these unprecedented times. Children (and most people) do best when they know what to expect so that every day doesn't seem like a new and daunting challenge for all involved. This will also make for an easier transition, if and when, your child physically returns to school during or after COVID.

  1. Encourage your child to get up in the morning, brush their teeth, wash their face, and get dressed.

  2. Recognize that younger children do not need strict instruction all day long and will likely perform better if it is spaced out throughout the day. Older children may prefer to get all of their work done in one or two chunks of time throughout the day but will still need some breaks built in.

  3. Create a schedule that allows some flexibility and don't forget to include mealtimes and some playtime or leisure activities.

  4. Feel free to plan your child's schedule around your work schedule if needed.

  5. Recognize and be okay with the fact that your schedule may change a bit as you find out what works best for your family and your child.

Here is an example of what your schedule might look like:

8:45 AM-Wake up, wash up, brush teeth, and get dressed

9:00 AM-Breakfast

9:30 AM-School (Instruction Time/Assignments)

11:30 AM-Lunch

12:15 PM-Outdoor play/Creative indoor activity

1:00 PM-School (Instruction Time/Assignments)

3:00 PM-Free time

This is just an example. You can tailor the timing to what works best for your child and your family.

Get school supplies.

Your child will still need paper, notebooks, and writing utensils to do schoolwork at home. Don't forget to stock up on the usual items so they can stay organized and be able to complete all assignments.

Create a "classroom" or study space.

If possible, designate a place in your home that you can dedicate specifically to schoolwork. This space should ideally be away from the TV and other distractions and include a chair and writing surface for your child. Separating your family leisure spaces from your child's learning space will help your child focus when it's time for learning activities.

Use your child's school as a resource or guide.

Many schools will still offer a curriculum and assignments for completion to help make sure your child does not fall behind. And many teachers will still be an email or phone call away. Don't be afraid to reach out to them if your child needs extra help with or clarification about assignments.

Consider an incentive system.

While most parents would not usually reward a child for completing routine schoolwork, these again, are unprecedented times. Your child may need a little extra motivation to stay focused and engaged while learning at home.

Consider an incentive system that uses checkpoints, such as a daily "check mark", "green light", or a "star" for completing all the day's assignments. As they accumulate "checks" or "stars" they can eventually lead up to a larger reward. For example, 10 "checks" or "stars" may lead to a pizza night or movie rental. Or your child could save up their "checks" or "stars" and when they have 50, could lead to a new video game or other desired toy/object.

Use a visual reminder, such as a chart on the refrigerator or you can use an App so your child can check in and see how close they are to reaching their goal.

You can decide on the specific terms with your child but make sure the rewards are small enough that you can actually live up to the expectation without breaking the bank, but significant enough that your child will be motivated to work for the reward. You probably know or can discuss with your child what types of rewards will mean something to them.

Talk to your employer.

Lastly, don't be afraid to talk with your employer. While some employers have been proactive about allowing for remote work and understanding parents' new demands since COVID, some employers may not know how they can help.

If you are already working remotely, once you have created your child's schedule, let you boss know what your child's daily schedule will look like and ask to have a lighter load during those times, e.g. no meetings or deadlines.

If you are not working remotely but your job would allow for it, explain your needs to your boss and find out if working remotely, even some days or some hours, is a possibility.

If working remotely is not an option for you, ask your boss about alternate shifts. You may be able to work an early shift or a late shift or pick up more weekend hours instead of working during the week so you can have more time with your children during certain hours or so you can alternate schedules with your spouse or partner.

If none of these options are a possibility AND you have an older, responsible middle school- or high school-aged child, let your boss know that you may need to check in with your child multiple times throughout the day.

If none of these options are a possibility, AND you have a not-so-responsible middle school- or an elementary-aged child, try to find help in another capable family member or trusted adult, consider decreasing your work hours (if financially feasible), consider changing jobs to something more flexible, or consider hiring help.


Some of your children will be physically returning to school, daycare, or even college during COVID. Here are tips for helping your children stay safe and adjust to the new norms of mask-wearing, diligent hygiene measures, and social distancing.

Prepare and practice.

Discuss with your child what the new outside world and the new rules will look like during the COVID pandemic. Explain to them why there are new rules in place in as simple terms as possible. Let your child ask questions and be prepared to answer them or help your child find the answers to their questions.

Have your child practice wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer. Show them how to do these things correctly and how to wash their hands most effectively to help prevent the spread of COVID.

Show them the correct way to wear a mask by making sure it covers from the top of the nose to the bottom of the chin. Teach them to avoid touching their face frequently.

Teach your child that washing their hands with soap and water is always most ideal and that hand sanitizer is mainly for the times they do not have a sink available to wash their hands.

Teach them that they should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds by singing the "Happy Birthday" song in their head (or out loud). Teach them to make sure they wash the fronts and backs of their hands as well as in between their fingers.

Teach them to use sanitizer by applying a dime-sized amount to the palm of their hand and then rubbing the sanitizer in using similar motions as if they were washing their hands. Advise them to continue rubbing until all of the sanitizer is rubbed in and has dried.

Teach them to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer:

  • before they leave the house

  • when they get home

  • before and after eating

  • after using the bathroom

  • after sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose

  • after touching frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and stair banisters

  • after touching their face or someone else

Talk to your child's school or daycare about COVID plans.

Ask your child's school, daycare, or college what safety precautions they are taking or if they have a written safety plan or procedures during COVID. If not addressed, here are some questions you might ask:

  1. What will be your basic cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of COVID?

  2. How frequently will cleaning occur?

  3. Will everyone entering the school be screened for COVID symptoms or exposures?

  4. How will this screening happen?

  5. Will visitors be limited?

  6. Will I be notified if there are positive COVID cases in my child's school?

  7. How will I be notified?

  8. What will be the next steps if there are positive COVID cases?

  9. Will children and staff be required to wear masks?

  10. Will social distancing be ensured? If so, how?

  11. Will there be any mixing of classes?

  12. How many students or children will be in my child's class?

Do not hesitate to ask questions. School administrators should be able and ready to answer these questions to help ensure the health and safety of everyone during the COVID pandemic.

Talk to your pediatrician

Do not hesitate to call your child's pediatrician and ask questions, especially if your child is showing and concerning symptoms of COVID. Symptoms of coronavirus may include but are not limited to:

  • Fever

  • Persistent cough

  • Trouble breathing

  • Runny nose or congestion

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Fatigue or decreased activity level

  • Sore throat or decreased appetite

  • Rash

  • Loss of taste or smell

Your child's pediatrician will be able to give you guidance on getting your child evaluated, COVID testing, and quarantining measures to help keep your child and your family as healthy as possible.

Follow the rules and keep others safe.

Now more than ever, if your child or anyone in your home is showing any signs of sickness, it’s important that you keep your child home. This will help to prevent the spread of potential illness to others.

The same goes for teachers and administrators. Anyone who is not feeling well should stay home. We all must look out not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but for everyone.

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All content on this website, including medical opinion and any other health-related information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this website and the information contained does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor before starting any specific treatment plan.

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1 Comment

Fantah Hyson
Fantah Hyson
Aug 28, 2020

Sage advice that covers all the bases of distance and in person learning for kids. It is a tough time but good information like this helps parents of school aged children to succeed!

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