Parents are understandably worried about kids attending school this fall. Lisa Damour, a psychologist, and I recently answered questions from Times readers.
What do you find most reassuring about kids and school?
It’s pretty reassuring that during the early part of the pandemic, when teachers weren’t vaccinated yet, schools that took a multi-layered approach — masking, pods, ventilation, regular testing — could stay open.
We’re going to have disruption, and some schools may shut down for a few days. But I think the consensus in the health community right now is that school is important, and we need to keep schools open.
What do you want parents to know?
I want to remind people to focus on what you can control. You can get vaccinated; you can get your older children vaccinated; you can let your child spend time with families where those parents are vaccinated. I wouldn’t take the family to a crowded restaurant.
Your essential activity is your child going to school. That’s where you’re going to assume some level of risk. So let’s minimize the risk everywhere else in your life. Parents have more power and more control than they realize.
How can parents prepare kids for questions from others about masks?
I think we should say to kids, “If anyone gives you a hard time about this, say, ‘Yeah, wearing a mask is a drag, but I promised my folks that I would.’” That will end it.
What questions should parents ask to ensure daycare centers are taking precautions?
I would ask if everyone there is vaccinated. If the daycare didn’t require vaccination, I would try to find somewhere else.
Have they focused on ventilation? Do they have the windows open? I would recommend you just ask them what they’ve done. Children aren’t at high risk, so we don’t have to worry as much, but we still want to take as many precautions as we can.
How do you talk to a teenager who is hanging out with unvaccinated friends?
We are talking all the time with teenagers about how people make choices that have consequences.
If you know your teenager is hanging out with kids who are not vaccinated, then you need to talk with them about how they’re managing that risk. Do it from the standpoint of saying, “Nothing is more important than your safety. Tell me, what will you do if everybody wants to go inside? What’s the plan?”
What can parents do to protect a child’s mental health in general?
If your child feels stressed, anxious or upset or frustrated, that’s probably evidence of mental health. There’s a lot to feel stressed, anxious, upset and frustrated about. The next question becomes: are they able to handle that? Can they talk to you about how they’re feeling? Can they have a good cry?
What we don’t want to see is an extended period of not being themselves, not feeling good. That’s when it’s time to reach out to a health professional for support.
Source: New Yotk Times