Keeping kids healthy during the school year can be a challenge. Young kids and proper hygiene don’t always mix. They’ll get dirty within milliseconds after bathing. Runny noses? They automatically wipe them on their hands, sleeves or worse. Sneezing or coughing? The little people have no qualms sharing the love in close proximity. Most of the time parents can chalk up this behavior to kids being kids. Moms and Dads try to teach their children proper sanitary practices but often the lessons fall on deaf ears also known as selective hearing. Kids, you see, are not keen on responsibility which has the potential to become particularly problematic when school is back in session.
Like dominoes, it takes but one sick child to knock over an entire school’s population. By default, families are infected at home resulting in viruses spreading throughout communities. Scary stuff considering how quickly it can happen. The 2014 school year began with a warning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a dangerous unidentified respiratory virus in Denver which they predicted would affect the entire country. Why the speedy outbreak? Health officials assumed kids would be kids. We can do better. We must.
Perhaps the approach should be more of an individual one. As adults, if we proactively took simple steps in sickness prevention (i.e. washing our hands often, covering up when about to sneeze or cough, avoiding sick people in public places, staying home when possible if ill), children will get exposed to healthy habits. The idea of taking care of oneself first is a tough concept for parents to accept. Once the kids are born, the notion of self-preservation diminishes over time. Unhealthy habits creep in eroding immune systems along the way. I wonder how many Moms and Dads skip breakfast for themselves to get the kids dressed and to school on time. I’ve been guilty of that oversight on numerous occasions over the years. Let’s just say it’s never a long term winning proposition. If fact, it’s dumb. Why do we lionize parents who sacrifice common sense for the sake of their kids? Let’s not do that anymore.
Schools need to take on a larger role in children’s health. Every summer, letters are sent home to parents listing supplies needed for the academic year. In addition to pens, pencils, notebooks, etc., how about requesting small bottles of hand sanitizer for each child? In my experience as a Dad, I can attest to my children loving having the independence to take care of themselves. Also, posting a sign in the girls and boys bathroom explaining how to properly wash one’s hands is really only useful if a teacher first demonstrates the steps followed by each child taking a turn. That’s key. Don’t just tell them what do, let them experience it too. Again, self-empowerment goes a long way. In addition, school bathrooms should be cleaned and sterilized a few times a day. Lastly, schools need to emphasize the benefit of keeping children home if they’re sick. If parents follow this rule of thumb, it will collectively result in less of an economic/time management burden for every parent during the school year.
The go-to short list of contagious illness prevention includes covering your mouth or nose when you feel you’re going to cough or sneeze, wash your hands throughout the day, eating properly every day, and staying home when sick. We can cut down the spread of viruses. We can meet this challenge and win!
What do you think? What steps do you take to keep you and your family healthy throughout the school year?