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Mendo Lake Family Life

How to Prepare for the First Day of School

By Cheryl Maguire

Do I have to wear a mask all day?” My 12-year-old daughter asked me this question when we recently discussed going back to school. She had many other questions, too, as did her peers and their parents. I turned to pediatrician Sumana Reddy, M.D., for guidance.

Face Coverings Schools are going to require that kids and teachers wear masks. How do you help your child get used to wearing one? Reddy suggests that, before school starts, kids wear masks at home at least once a week. “I also suggest offering kids incentives and rewards for not touching their faces,” she says.

In addition to getting used to masks, children should learn to replace their masks at lunchtime. Masks can pick up COVID-19 from the surfaces on which they are placed, such as school lunch tables. So Reddy recommends that kids take two masks to school, one to wear before lunch and one to wear after it.

“Drop the [second] mask into your child’s lunch bag and tell them to switch to a new clean one after eating,” says Reddy.

And what kind of mask should a child wear? “Although any mask is better than none, a tight weave cotton in layers is better than a single layer of jersey or similar stretch materials. Also, the nose should have a metal bridge piece to minimize airflow from above,” says Reddy. If your child has trouble wearing a mask, then she suggests using a face shield.

Schedule a Check-Up or Well Visit If your child has not already had her or his yearly check-up, it is important to schedule one.

Children should get all the CDC-recommended immunizations, including an annual flu shot.

“This year, the flu shot is even more important,” says Damon Korb, M.D., author of Raising an Organized Child (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019). “We want to reduce the common cold because, when noses start running, we all touch our faces. That is a recipe for disaster with COVID-19. Getting the flu shot may actually reduce the likelihood of catching and spreading COVID.”

Reddy agrees: “The more families that get the flu vaccine the better it will be for everyone.”

If you don’t have insurance, the federally funded program Vaccines For Children ( will provide vaccines for free. And if you do have insurance there should not be a co-pay for receiving the vaccine.
“The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance companies to pay in full for vaccines recommended by the CDC,” says Reddy.

There might be some insurance companies that are exempt, Reddy says. Look into your coverage before getting your vaccine.

Telehealth Check-In Kids that are going back to school either remotely or in-person are likely to experience more anxiety than usual. Your pediatrician can help address this and any other mental health issues your child may be experiencing.

“I recommend that all kids do a telehealth check-in with their pediatrician before going back to school to discuss the transition. Often parents think their kid is fine, but you want to have a chance to talk about stress and anxiety,” says Reddy. 

Cheryl Maguire’s writing has been published in the New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. You can find her on Twitter @CherylMaguire05.