Supporting Children Returning to School during Covid-19

The South African Government has announced the phasing in of learners returning to face-to-face teaching. This has caused two camps to rise: those for children returning and those against children returning to school. I am not going to choose sides, rather focus on how to support children as they go back to school.

Firstly, we need to be aware that many individuals may struggle with anxiety and fear on returning to school. We also need to realize that while children may not show signs of difficulties initially, these may arise as they are faced with new processes on entering schools and interacting with peers and teachers through physical distancing – this is going to be particularly difficult for younger children. As children get used to their new realities during Covid-19, as well as the uncertainty of it’s duration, the prolonged effect may well give rise to an increase in mental illness.

So how do we support all children as we ourselves learn to navigate the waters of our new (hopefully temporary) reality (while managing our own anxieties and fears)? How do we support children who may have, or who may be at risk of mental illness?

  1. Clinically vulnerable children should not return to school but should be supported through online learning.
  2. Children who live in homes with vulnerable individuals should only attend school if strict hygiene and physical distancing is practiced. The child needs to be old enough to be able to understand these practices and be able to carry them out.
  3. Age-appropriate education around Covid-19 is important. This should be implemented in the home as well as the school environment.
  4. Children should be taught good hand hygiene practices at home before returning to school.
  5. Educate children about physical distancing and physical contact and the spread of Covid-19.
  6. Teach children to wear masks independently where a child is able to put on or remove a mask without assistance. For young children, a face mask may be considered – the use of these should also be practiced prior to going back to school.
  7. Talk to children about their thoughts and feelings around returning to school. Normalize their feelings and offer support.
  8. Explain the changes they can expect on returning to school (most schools are providing parents with the procedures that will be implemented).
  9. Keep having conversations with children about their experiences and feelings as the days and weeks after returning to school progress.
  10. Good communication with your child’s teacher is key.

Co-Parenting during the COVID-19 Lockdown in South Africa

There has been much uncertainty about shared contact of children during the upcoming COVID-19 lockdown in the country.

With some parents intent on following the court orders which are in place and the agreement within their existing parenting plans, we need to be cognisant that with the directive of the president, this may be superseded.

The best approach to a challenging situation is to appeal to common sense and the need to protect the vulnerable (your children). The fact is, with moving between homes, they are placed at risk where that risk would not be present would parents agree to have children remain at one residence. There is also no guarantee that a home may not have had the virus brought into it prior to the lockdown (remember you could have contracted the virus and not be showing symptoms yet).

While lockdown is in progress, opportunities to have contact with the other parent are vital. Face time, WhatsApp video calls, Skype, Zoom, etc can be utilised to ensure that the child can “see” a parent as well as the parent “see” them. With little ones this can be challenging as their attention spans are not very long, so perhaps have 2 calls a day? With older children, there are online games that can also be brought into the contact time in order to spend more time “together”. Once the lockdown is over, parents can make up time with increased contact to even out fair access.

As parents, you have parental rights, but you also have parental responsibilities. It is your responsibility to act in the best interest of your children. Keep them safe, keep them in contact with the other parent and family members, maintain as much as possible social interactions through engaging with friends, etc. We all need to work together to try and “flatten the curve”.

For further guidance, read this post by FAMSA: https://www.facebook.com/FamsaBfn/posts/1318574085020247?hc_location=ufi

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With an International Pandemic and many countries, including South Africa, putting drastic measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, education is key.

What is it?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available. (Accessed Online: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1)

Symptoms

The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways.  COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment.  People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.

Common symptoms include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention. (Accessed Online: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_3)