Transcript of Back to School Live Video

Watch the Live Video Here

Q: Do masks really help reduce the spread of the virus?

A: Yes. Especially since we don’t know who’s sick. There’s a good portion of people that are asymptomatic (meaning they do not have any symptoms) and those people still shed the virus and have a viral load similar to people that do have symptoms. So, it’s important to cover up so that we can prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We have also seen in studies that came out of Italy and China that the higher the viral load you are exposed to, the more severe the illness (and likelihood of mortality) tends to be. That being said, wearing masks not only reduces the spread, but it also reduces viral load that you may receive if you were to come into contact with someone with COVID-19.


Q: What are some tips that you think parents can utilize to relieve the fears of the kids during this pandemic?

A: Number one is just acknowledging this new temporary normal. You don’t want to suppress it but you also don’t want to exaggerate it. You’re asking them how they feel, regularly telling them how you feel, letting them know it’s okay to not feel normal all the time. Really listen to them & help them name their feelings just by saying them out loud. That can help significantly on the emotional effects afterwards and validate how they feel. You don’t have to agree with how they feel but just saying “it sounds like you’re feeling this way” can really help them feel more at peace.


Q: What are some things that parents can take away to best prepare their kids for the virtual learning months/weeks ahead?

A: I think you need to start by having a family meeting and talk about what the school year looks like right now. Try and have a positive attitude about it, but really set a routine. Kids thrive in routine and stability. It gives them comfort and helps their self-confidence. Set up a study place and get them excited about it! We just picked out these new desk chairs and it was like the coolest thing ever, so just something to get them excited, something to get them to feel like normal. Sleep is incredibly important. Get them back on a school routine. There is lots of research behind regular sleep in that it helps your mood, anxiety, thinking & memory which helps with school.


Q: My child has Attention Deficit Disorder, how am I going to get my child to sit in front of a computer for hours on end?

A: Getting them back on a schedule a week or so before starting school, developing that structure, establishing those routines will help a lot. Good sleep & regular physical activity is going to help and go a long way in allowing them to be successful at the start of and throughout the school year.


Q: How should we go about getting back to face-to-face learning?

A: We all have the same goal in mind in that we want our children back in schools. With that in mind, I would want to make sure we know that there is no perfect answer right now. What may work for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another family. Each family has to make decisions based on their own personal lifestyle, their family that they interact with on a regular basis, and the health of their family at baseline. Be mindful of that. We may have strong opinions about which way we want learning to go, but we need to recognize that our neighbors may have different and competing opinions about that.


Q: How can we address fear or anxiety around getting back to face-to-face learning?

A: Acknowledge the feelings that the fear does exist. Realize that feelings and situations are temporary just like that saying: “this too shall pass”. Really keep in mind that this is not a permanent situation and do anything you can to empower your kids and help them see how they can help the situation which will help them do better in the long run as well. Also, work on mindfulness (focusing on the here and now). 

There’s a whole bunch of different fun activities that you can do or just little tasks that you can do to help bring you back from the “what ifs”. For me, I usually always have a ponytail holder on my wrist and this like when I find myself perseverating, I’ll just snap my band & picture stop sign in my head, so that way I can focus on the here and now & redirect my attention to something else.

Get your kids to work on their change of thought process. Optimism, resiliency, and mental strength are all teachable & contagious. So, anything you can do to help bestow that upon your children is helpful.


Q: What are some practical, hands-on tips that parents could use to help their children establish a more optimistic outlook?

A: Gratitude journals, daily walks, whatever works for your family. We sit down at the table and say: What’s one thing that you learned today? What’s one thing that made you laugh today? What’s one thing that you’re grateful for? Now you can ask these kinds of questions at the table, in the car, etc. (wherever you have a captive audience). There’s also lots of good books out there:

Mindful Parenting in a Chaotic World: Effective Strategies To Stay Centered At Home and On-the-Go

Mindful Parenting 

Also, going outside, or ecotherapy, is also very powerful. Going outside 30 minutes three times a week has profound effects on your mental health and well-being. Have your kids go outside to do their reading, to exercise, or just to lay in the grass.


Q: How about for older children where sports have been cancelled or postponed? How can we help them cope?

A: I think number one as parents we’re the driving force of how our children react to this. We should acknowledge it is unfortunate but help them find alternatives. Get creative & try to come up with a way they can still do the sport safely. For example, we took my son who plays hockey and another friend to a parking lot, they maintained their distance, one was in the goal and one was shooting. You can do family exercises, too. Just keep them physically active, acknowledging it’s difficult but try to spin it in a positive way. Keep in mind that outdoor sports tend to be safer– swimming, tennis, those types of things.


Q: What’s your advice with multiple children doing digital learning with one parent at home?

A: Give yourself grace. It’s not going to go perfectly and that’s okay. You’re gonna have bad days and that’s okay. Acknowledge that, but also reach out to your kids teachers and see if there’s any flexibility in terms of how you do things & figure out a plan that works for you. Also, lots of coffee 😉 Grace, patience, and remembering that this too shall pass!

I think if you’re able if you have multiple children & if you’re able to kind of spread them out a little bit & give them their own personal space, I think that will go a long way in allowing them to really give them the school experience. Also, having headphones for laptops is a great idea, too (provided that they are maintained at a safe volume).


Q: How safe is indoor swimming for someone with a low immunity?

A: You can look at what the ventilation system is in the indoor swimming area that you’re in. As of now it has not been shown that we can transmit the virus in the water especially if it’s clean. If the pool is treated properly it’s highly unlikely that when they’re in the water that they’re gonna have the virus transmitted um now having said that if they’re congregating in the water and their heads are above water and somebody is coughing in their face then there is a potential risk there but if you’re able to go swimming a pool and you’ve got a lane all to yourself, I think it’s about as safe as you’re going to be able to get.


Q: What about sending a 3-4-year-old to daycare?

A: This is one of those personal family decisions. If you feel it is absolutely necessary to send your child to daycare, I would talk to the daycare center and ask questions like what their protocols are, how many students are in the class, are they able to distance at all, etc. We have to remember in this age group more than likely the transmission is going to be from the adult to the children and less likely the other way around, so we have to see what the rules are for the teachers and staff that work at the school. Are they requiring that they wear masks? Who else is allowed in and out of the building? Limiting visit visitors is a big thing. What are their sick protocols? Are they checking temperatures? Asking these types of questions will help you see how serious the daycare center is taking this & might help you feel a bit better about sending your child there. Again, you’ll have to make the decision based on what’s best for your family.

If you weigh the risks and decide that you don’t want to send your child to daycare, 3-year-olds need 4 things: safety, stability, love, and play. So, if you can provide that at home then don’t think twice. Play & socialization are important so if you can provide that safely and you’re unable to send them to school despite wanting to they’re going to be okay. Remember, in many other parts of the world kids do not enter school this early. So, at home if you’re reading to them, you’re playing with them, you’re showing them love, you’re giving them some structure and stability– that’s really all that they need at that age.


Q: What needs to happen for us to go back to face-to-face learning?

A: 1. Our community spread has to be decreased (cobb douglas health department statistics). Just to give people an idea of what safer numbers are you want positivity rate to be <5%  to really feel confident about opening schools. 2. We need increased testing. Right now, we still have a very long turnaround time between when we get tested and when we get the results. 3. We need to have the contact tracers that we’re able to call. That was a big part of going virtual for Cobb county is when they realized the community spread and the lack of personnel that would be able to follow up on all the schools that would test positive is a big part of it. 3.We need to make sure we have hospital beds available. 4. We have to be conscientious of mortality.


Q: What advice can you give to parents with children with disabilities such as autism?

A:  1. Go back to structure. Children with autism, ADHD, and various other disabilities thrive with structure.
2. Reach out to teachers and therapists who’ve been successful with your child in the past, find out what worked with them, & try to implement that at home.
3. Set up some therapy sessions– given that you’ve taken the risks into consideration and have calculated that it would be best for your family & child to do so.

Also, periodically check in with yourself as a parent. Remember, it’s always good to stay mentally healthy yourself so that you can give the best of yourself for your children. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Taking care of yourself first will go a long way in helping you best care for your children.


Q: What tips do you have to deal with the drastic increase in use of social media and its impact on mental health?

A: Social media use should still be limited as much as you can. They’re going to be on their devices for a certain amount of time throughout the day, so maybe make the time after school more device-free. If you have an older child in the home, give them some time later in the day where they can get back on and check in with their friends. However, they really do need some sort of break. Spending too much time on social media or reading the news online has been shown to cause more anxiety and depression among people in general, whether it’s an adult, teenager, or child; so just be conscientious of that. Remember that when you are on social media at your home, you’re bringing that into your home as well so just be mindful of whoever it is you are allowing into your safe space.

Also, if you’re getting on social media, do it with purpose. Don’t sit there and scroll for hours—if you need to, set a timer. In general, technology can be a great tool in terms of connecting with others (zoom, facetime, etc.) as long as you’re using it with purpose.


Q: Do you have any tips for teens middle school age students for their stage of social and emotional development?

A: At this age, this is where they are looking for independence and wanting to be self-sufficient. So, give them grace. Find areas where you can give them independence. Find areas where they can hang out safely with their friends. If you have a couple families that are making the same choices as yours, let the kids hang out outside on your porch. Let them have some socialization, give them some leeway in terms of chatting with their friends on social media. Understand that they need their space too and provide them with that. If you feel comfortable with letting them hang out with friends, make sure they wear masks when they’re not able to physically distance. When you go back to school especially in those high schools and colleges, I definitely recommend wearing the masks.


Q: My child is going back to school (in-person). What can I do? 

A: Before your child goes to school check their temperature, make sure they don’t have a fever. Keep them home if they’re feeling sick, if they’ve been exposed to somebody who had coronavirus, or if they’ve been tested and you’re waiting for the result. We have to understand that our personal decisions are now really affecting the community at large. I recommend starting a multivitamin, drinking plenty of fluids, getting that regular physical activity.

Let’s be careful about being too critical and try to be helpful with the schools. Talk to your schools ask them what you can do to help as you navigate the pandemic. Maybe they need help to procure cleaning supplies. Maybe they just need supportive words for their teachers and staff.

Remember that everyone is putting forth their best effort to get our kids back in the classroom. Remember to be kind because that is the example you are demonstrating to your child.


Q: What are some things schools can do to help mitigate the situation?

A: Some tips recommended through various organizations (CDC, AAP, Children’s, etc.) include: cohorting students [grouping a certain number of students together in a class and moving them around together so that if one of them gets sick it’s easier to trace and to stop it from spreading to others outside of the cohort], utilizing outdoor spaces [have class outdoors or in a bigger space if you have the ability to do so], physically distancing students and having them wear masks, limiting the number of unnecessary visitors, and maintaining good ventilation [keeping windows open when the weather is nice to allow the air to flow & changing air filters periodically].

Let’s enter the school year with a positive attitude so that our children can have the best school year possible!

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