How can I prepare my kid to go back to school?

As scientists and parents, we understand the worries facing parents of school-aged kids. Here’s what we are doing with our own kids, and what we also recommend for yours, based on the most up-to-date epidemiological studies of the current COVID variants circulating in the United States. After examining all of the current scientific evidence, we’re confident that following these precautions can reduce risks of transmission in school and that in-person school offers important social and educational benefits

Recommendation for children 12 and older

  • If your child is aged 12 and up, we recommend they get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can. 

Recommendations for all children

  • Make sure all your other household members and caregivers age 12 and up are fully vaccinated too.  This will help prevent additional exposures and interruptions to school or childcare.
  • Help your child find and get used to wearing a mask that fits well and is comfortable enough that they will be able to wear it throughout the school day.  If your child isn’t used to wearing a mask, practice wearing a mask at home.
  • Send your child to school with extra masks in case they need a clean one during the day.
  • Make sure your kids are symptom-free each day before you send them to school. 
  • Provide your child with a water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.  Most schools have turned off water fountains to reduce the risk of COVID spread.
  • Talk to your kids about the cafeteria and the importance of wearing a mask unless actively eating or drinking.
  • Ask your child’s school about infection control measures they are using to minimize the risk of infections, such as improving air circulation, encouraging employees to get vaccinated, requiring masks at all times, regular testing of teachers and students, and preventing overcrowding in indoor spaces. 
  • Talk to your children about why it’s important to get vaccinated, wear masks, and wash hands frequently, and what they should expect if they are exposed or develop symptoms.
  • Encourage kids to feel confident and empowered to follow infection control measures to protect themselves and others. After the last 18 months of online schools, many kids have some anxiety about going back in person. 
  • Be open to their questions and patient with their transition to being away from you much more than they have been for a long time. 
  • Stay in touch with their teachers and communicate with them about any issues that come up. 
  • Take care of yourself and make sure you and your kids get good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of sleep with new, unfamiliar schedules. 

What if my child has an underlying condition?

Some children with suppressed immune systems or severe underlying conditions might need to take additional precautions or even avoid in-person instruction in areas with high transmission. It is a very difficult decision best made in consultation with your personal physician. 

Last update: September 10, 2021, 1:50pmET

Science review: HAY, ERS