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Public health experts give back to school tips you can start right now

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Is your child anxious about going back to school? Experts say there are ways to get them prepared, but you should start now.

13WREX spoke to public health experts about recommendations for the first day of school. While your child might need a refresher on cursive, it's far from the only thing they should practice before starting in-person learning.

"Put on a mask, so that they can get used to wearing it," Beth Squires, Northern Illinois University's Public Health Program Coordinator, says.

Squires has a background in mental health and resiliency education. She recommends parents get their kids acclimated to wearing a mask all day, but little by little.

"Add five minutes every couple days, every day, so they can get used to it," Squires explains.

She adds parents should impress upon their kids the importance of consistent hand-washing, another tool in the fight against COVID-19.

"Build it into your routine and that will be very helpful for the kids to help them adjust to returning to school," Squires says.

But beyond our physical health, our mental health needs care too.

"Parents should do self care," Squires says. "Do some relaxation, meditation, [and] mindfulness exercises to, you know, keep you calm."

She says these exercises can be done with your children and she encourages it.

She also wants to remind parents school districts are equipped with mental health resources if you do notice a difference in your child's behavior or personality.

"Check in with your children, ask them how they're feeling about the pandemic," Squires says.

Winnebago County's Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell seconds that notion.

"We have to recognize this has been extremely traumatic," Dr. Martell says.

Martell believes teachers should discuss the pandemic with kids too.

"Every developmental stage needs to be able to put this disease in context of the developmental stage of their classroom group," Dr. Martell explains. "Obviously, as we go up in grades, their understanding is greater."

But while these recommendations may help you and your children prepare for going back to school, Squires points out the elephant in the room, the situation on everyone's mind, what will happen if coronavirus cases surge again?

"Be prepared that we are not going to have any choice but to go back to all online learning," Squires explains.

Dr. Martell and Squires agree, it's about finding a balance between our health and our kids' futures.

Dr. Martell adds, although school will be different this year, it does provide kids with the opportunity for a renewed sense of normalization.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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