Science Is Leading the Way to Reopen Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented immense and immediate challenges for schools across the country. Seemingly overnight, teachers and administrators had to rework their curriculum, shift to online learning, and find ways to engage students of all ages from behind a screen. At the same time, students and parents worked to quickly acclimate to the virtual environment, juggling jobs, school and childcare—all during a global pandemic.

As a mother of three boys, I experienced these challenges and stresses in my own family. My son’s high school held a “back to school night” right after I was nominated to be CDC Director. I heard—as a mother and as the Director—about the difficulties of engaging students on Zoom. Like many of you, I did my best to keep my kids safe while juggling work and other responsibilities.

From the beginning of my tenure as CDC Director, one of the top priorities for the agency has been getting students back into the classroom safely. The science tells us that in addition to education, in-person learning gives our children access to the vital social and mental health services that prepare them for success in our world. That is why CDC strongly believes schools should be the last place to close and the first place to open, to ensure no child goes without these essential services.

We know that students from low-resourced communities, students from ethnic and racial minority communities, and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the loss of in-person instruction. By following the science and engaging with our partners, CDC has worked to develop guidance and resources to ensure that every student can learn in the classroom safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science Is Leading the Way

Science is leading the way in how we respond to COVID-19, including how to get our children back into classrooms during the pandemic—while prioritizing the safety of students, teachers and school staff. Before developing guidance to safely reopen schools, CDC conducted an in-depth review of all the available data and engaged with educational and public health partners to hear first-hand from parents and educators about their experiences and concerns.

I have personally heard the concerns expressed by both parents and school leaders, which ranged from concerns about potentially lost academic progress, to anxiety about personal and family safety if returning to in-person instruction. These discussions, in combination with the latest science, provided the data we needed to develop a strategy for students to safely return to schools in different parts of the country, with varying classroom sizes and resources.

Guidelines for Reopening K-12 Schools

In February, we released the K-12 Operational Strategy for in-person instruction based on evidence that showed K-12 schools could operate safely for in-person instruction if they use layered prevention strategies. Prevention strategies that are layered, or used together, provide the greatest protection against transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC Strategy encourages students, faculty, and staff in school settings to practice prevention behaviors by following these 5 key mitigation strategies:

  1. Universal and correct mask-wearing
  2. Physical distancing
  3. Hand washing and good respiratory etiquette
  4. Cleaning to maintain healthy facilities
  5. Diagnostic testing with rapid and efficient contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine, and collaboration with local health departments

In addition, when CDC released the K-12 Operational Strategy, we noted that the science of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and we would update our recommendations when new evidence became available. As more studies were published and CDC scientists analyzed the available evidence on physical distancing, it was clear there was ample evidence to update CDC’s recommendations for physical distancing between students in classrooms with universal mask use.

Based on evolving evidence, last week, CDC issued its updated guidance for physical distancing with recommendations for various settings of K-12 education.

  • Elementary schools: Students should remain at least three feet apart in classrooms while wearing a mask, regardless of the level of COVID-19 spread in the community.
  • Middle and high schools: Students should remain at least three feet apart in classrooms while wearing a mask, when community spread of COVID-19 is low, moderate or substantial.
  • For middle and high schools in communities with high spread of COVID19: Students should remain at least six feet apart, unless cohorting is possible.
  • Community settings outside the classroom or in any situation when unmasked: Everyone should maintain at least six feet apart.

A Shared Effort

Getting our children back to school for in-person instruction is a critical step in turning the corner on this pandemic, and partnerships with key stakeholders in education, government and the community are helping schools make this transition. CDC is providing guidance, tools and resources to our educational and public health partners and collaborating through webinars, conferences and other engagements to increase understanding of the operational strategy for K-12 schools and to support schools as they integrate CDC’s recommendations into their schools’ planning.

CDC also recently announced it was providing $10 billion to support COVID-19 diagnostic and screening testing for teachers, staff and students. In addition, CDC’s K-12 Operational Strategy identifies vaccination as an additional layer of prevention that can be added to the five key mitigation strategies. CDC has been working with our federal retail pharmacy partners to prioritize the vaccination of K-12 teachers, staff and childcare workers during the month of March. I am happy to report that our pharmacy partners have vaccinated more than 1.3 million educators, staff, and childcare workers so far, and more than 550,000 of these vaccinations were in the last week alone.  

Last week, at the National Summit on Safe School Reopening, I was able to connect virtually with representatives from the Department of Education and other government and non-governmental organizations to hear from school districts across the country about their challenges and successes in reopening. I was so encouraged to hear about their efforts and the innovations they are implementing in order to get kids back to in-person learning.

Real-World Experience, Science, and Evidence

My youngest son returned to hybrid school about a month ago, and he’s thrilled to be back. While I know many students are also looking forward to joining their peers in a classroom setting, I realize that the decision to have your child return to in-person learning is not an easy one. My hope for the future is based on real-world experience, science and evidence—and we now have that experience, science, and evidence as well as the resources to get our children back to school across the nation.


Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ninth Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

2021 Healthy Habit New Year’s Resolutions

Help minimize the spread of germs this new year

Even though the calendar has turned to a new year, COVID-19 is still a presence in our lives, and practicing healthy habits is as important as ever. So, this year, choose New Year’s resolutions that will help minimize the spread of illness-causing germs.

Lysol and National PTA recommend the following 2021 resolutions for the entire family:

  • Wash your hands often.
    Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and remember to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
    Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Use the inside of your elbow if you do not have a tissue available. It is also important to wash your hands right after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  • Avoid touching your face.
    Infection occurs when germs enter the body, increase in number, and cause a reaction to the body. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

If your children are learning in-person, encourage your school to use the Lysol Welcome Back Packs, so New Year’s resolution tips are not forgotten at school.

Welcome Back Packs are available for educators nationwide to download and print. They include fun and educational resources such as informative posters, fun activities, useful stickers templates and engaging lesson plans that encourage healthy habits such as handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.

For more information on healthy habits and to download the Welcome Back Packs, please visit Lysol.com/HERE. Have a healthy new year!


Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA.

The Holiday Season Online Safety Refresh

Now that all of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been packed away, we’ve entered the final sprint of the year—the holiday gifting season! Historically, the holidays are a time when devices are purchased in families, whether the gifts are first-time devices or upgrades.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is even more likely that holiday wish lists will include devices this year. That means this is an important time for families to begin or do a refresh of key online safety tips.

The hardest part in any conversation is the beginning, which is why National PTA developed The Smart Talk—an interactive resource that walks families through a series of guided questions to help them start a digital safety conversation and help parents and teens navigate the digital world together.

In addition to encouraging families to use The Smart Talk, National PTA has also been working with TikTok, the leading short form video app which is popular among teens, to educate families on the “Three T’s” of online safety: Talk, Try, Teach.

  1. Talk to your teens about the apps they use, what they like, and if they aspire to become creators. National PTA’s The Smart Talk resource helps families navigate things like how to determine who should ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ your account, when to share photos or videos online and how to respond to negative comments or posts.
  2. Try the app together. Quality conversations stem from mutual understanding, so it’s important for parents to know and experience their teens’ favorite apps. For example, we encourage families to review resources like TikTok’s Youth Portal, Top Tips for Parents and Community Guidelines together as they discover how the app works and learn about the code of conduct that is expected for their online behavior.
  3. Teach your teens about the tools available in-app. We encourage families to show their teens how to find an app’s safety center and review the content together. For example, TikTok has several settings to control public presence/discoverability, followers, comments and more. In addition, TikTok’s Family Pairing lets parents link their own account to their teen’s account and directly set certain limits and controls, like the types of videos they can see and who can see their teen’s videos.

This year’s holiday season may look a bit different as social distancing continues. While families may not be able to see each other in person and travel may be more limited, technology has helped people to stay connected. Learning about online safety together and having open, ongoing conversations can help everyone have a positive experience.

For more tips and resources to help your family navigate the digital world and be safe online, visit PTA.org/Connected.


This post is sponsored by PTA Proud National Sponsor TikTok. TikTok is a supporting sponsor of National PTA’s PTA Connected initiative, which strives to help children act safely, responsibly and thoughtfully online. Through the initiative and National PTA and TikTok’s collaboration, National PTA and TikTok are helping parents learn more about how their teens are using TikTok; educating families about safety on the app; and guiding parents in having opening, ongoing conversations with their teens to ensure they are using social media productively and responsibly.  

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of TikTok is implied.

Alyssa Montchal is manager of programs and partnerships for National PTA.

Help Curb the Spread of Germs During the Colder Months

This year, flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading during the colder months. With flu symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, it is especially important for children to practice healthy habits to avoid getting sick.

When children are healthy, they can be present both physically and mentally to experience the magic of learning. As we enter cold and flu season, Lysol and National PTA encourage parents, teachers and schools to take the necessary precautions during the fall and winter seasons:

  • Get vaccinated: The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year. The CDC recommends anyone six months of age or older should get a vaccine every flu season. At this time, vaccines for COVID-19 are under development.
  • Wash your hands often: Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and remember to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes: Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Use the inside of your elbow if you do not have a tissue available. It is also important to wash your hands right after your cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  • Download Lysol Welcome Back Packs: Lysol created Welcome Back Packs to help promote healthy habits for in-person learning as part of its HERE for Healthy Schools initiative to help curb the spread of illness in classrooms. Welcome Back Packs are available for teachers nationwide to download and print. They include fun and educational materials, posters, mirror clings, floor decals and more help support school in-personal learning and educate students on healthy habits. Encourage your school administrators to download and use the Welcome Back Packs in classrooms.

For more information on Lysol HERE for Healthy Schools and the Welcome Back Packs, please visit Lysol.com/Here.

Welcome Back Packs for a Safe Return to School

Lysol provides teachers and schools with resources to teach healthy habits

 

Back to school looks different this year for students nationwide, and it is as important as ever for heathy habits to be taught and practiced both inside and outside of the classroom. That’s why Lysol created Welcome Back Packs as part of the brand’s HERE for Healthy Schools Initiative to help curb the spread of illness.

Welcome Back Packs are designed to help schools reopen safely and include fun and educational resources and materials such as posters, mirror clings, floor decals, and more to help schools educate students on healthy habits. Physical Welcome Back Packs are being distributed to Title I schools across the U.S., and digital packs are available for download so all schools can safely reopen.

Here are some ways that you can help encourage healthy habits among your children and their schools:

  • Practice healthy habits with your family: practice good hygiene habits like covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wear a facial covering: CDC recommends masks to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the masks coughs, sneezes, talks, to raises their voice. Teach your children the importance of wearing facial coverings to help prevent the spread of germs whenever they are at school. If there are specific instances when wearing a mark may not be feasible, consider adaptation and alternatives whenever possible.[1]
  • Talk to your school about utilizing the Welcome Back Packs: talk to your school administration about the Lysol Welcome Back Packs to help ensure safety measures and protocols are being implemented.
  • Keep children home if they feel sick: if your child displays signs of illness or had recent close contact with a person with COVID-19, make sure to keep them home to avoid spreading germs to other students.

Earlier this year, Lysol announced plans to invest more than $20 million over three years to expand HERE for Healthy Schools into every Title I* school in the U.S., reaching 15 million children by 2022. Through education, research funding and strategic partnerships, the program aims to minimize the spread of germs in the classroom. For more information on HERE for Healthy Schools and to download the Welcome Back Packs, please visit lysol.com/here.


[1] CDC.org. “Guidance for K-12 School Administrators on the Use of Masks in Schools.

 

Help Protect your Family as Businesses Begin to Reopen

Important tips to follow if your family decides to make an outing

As restaurant, retail businesses and other family-centric locations – like amusement parks – across the country begin to reopen, you may wonder how to best protect yourself and loved ones from getting sick if you decide to dine out or run some extra errands. While there is risk involved with any public outing, following the below guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If your family decides to venture outside the home and into public spaces, Lysol® and National PTA encourage you to follow these simple and easy guidelines:

  • Practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering: COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period. Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart from people who are not members of your immediate household and wear a cloth face covering every time you are out in public where you may end up closer than six feet to others.[i]
  • Research COVID-19 levels in your area: With many states seeing surges in cases, it is important to be aware if your area is seeing an increase in cases and make your best judgement on the safety of going out.[ii]
  • Check restaurants’ COVID-19 prevention policies: If you decide to go out to eat, check the restaurant’s website for updated COVID-19 prevention policies and procedures. Make sure that staff will be wearing face coverings and wear your own face coverings when entering and leaving the restaurant and when not eating. When possible, sit outside at tables spaced six or more feet apart.[iii]
  • Make appointments: Whether booking a spot at the gym, the hair salon or the dentist, make sure to call ahead to reserve your spot, check on policies and ensure that capacity limits will be met. Limit attendance at indoor group activities such as training sessions, and always wash your hands upon returning home.[iv]
  • Avoid public transit if possible: If public transportation is necessary, make sure to avoid touching surfaces, wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Wash your hands before and after taking public transportation. Even in your car, be sure to frequently disinfect commonly touched areas, such as the steering wheel and seats, with a product like Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes[v], or Lysol Disinfecting Spray (both approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19)[vi].
  • Stick to outdoor activities where possible: Whether dining outdoors, hosting a barbeque or going hiking, outdoor activities pose less risk than indoor activities for transmitting COVID-19, as they allow for more social distancing and air flow.[vii]

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit Lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.


[i] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html
[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[iv] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[v] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/using-transportation.html
[vi] https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/07/health/epa-lysol-disinfectant-covid-19-trnd/index.html
[vii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/visitors.html

The Importance of Daily Recess When Schools Return From COVID-19 Lockdowns

Over the past few months, parents have been faced with the seemingly impossible tasks of sheltering in place, working from home or at essential jobs, and homeschooling their children; all while managing the emotional, logistical, and financial challenges that have come with the recent global pandemic. As we look forward to the fall, schools are developing plans for how to resume public education while adhering to best practice recommendations from public health officials. Although recess is often elementary students’ favorite time of the school day, currently, there is limited discussion about recess in school re-opening. Recess is more than just fun and games; it is through play that children grow and the unstructured recess space is an important site for students to reconnect with their peers after months of isolation. Rather than cancelling recess or closing playgrounds,[1] at this critical time, recess should be prioritized in school re-opening plans.

Providing children with regular opportunities to play, socialize, rest, and re-energize through recess is imperative. High quality recess breaks improve mood, well-being, school engagement, behavior, learning, focus, attendance, and overall school climate. The time for social and emotional healing and growth is essential in this unprecedented time. Data show that children’s physical and psychological health are negatively impacted during quarantine[2], and that trauma symptoms increase for those in quarantine[3]. When children experience stress and trauma, it is difficult for them to access the portions of the brain that support thinking and reasoning,[4] thus recess and outdoor break times should be integral to any strategy aimed at providing a safe and supportive learning environment.

In considering a return to school, recess is the ideal space to promote health and healing. It is a time period that is intentionally unstructured, attends to students’ social, emotional, physical and intellectual development, and often takes place outdoors. Current data show[5] that transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is much less likely to happen in outdoor environments; and that outdoor recreation can facilitate social distancing efforts relative to time spent in indoor environments.[6]

Parents can play a key role in addressing the importance of recess as children return to school buildings. As many school districts and state education boards are seeking input from parent stakeholders, we encourage parents and local PTA’s to advocate for children’s right to play[7] and to ensure recess is available to every child, every day that they are physically at school. To help equip parents, educators, and policymakers on the both the importance of recess, and strategies to keep recess safe during (and beyond) the pandemic, The Global Recess Alliance – a group of international researchers, educators, and health professionals – has created list of suggested adaptations for recess based on the best available research evidence[8]. Among the recommendations are to:

  • Offer recess daily for children when they are physically present at school, outdoors if possible;
  • Count recess as instructional time;
  • Advise recess staff so they are prepared to support students who may be more energetic, aggressive, or withdrawn; or have less capacity to self-regulate, resolve their own conflicts, and figure out how to play together;
  • Maintain disinfecting practices for equipment and do not allow students to bring equipment from home;
  • Add handwashing stations and model their use;
  • Limit the number of children at recess at one time and create different play areas for activities to further reduce their interactions;
  • Avoid structured or sedentary activities—like watching movies or activity break videos that do not provide students free choice and peer interactions—which are not substitutes for recess; and
  • Given the many physical, social and emotional benefits of recess, do not withhold recess as punishment for any reason (e.g. as a consequence for missed schoolwork or misbehavior).

Parents and PTAs can utilize this available evidence to help schools develop plans to create safe and healthy play opportunities for child in both the near, and long-term future.


William Massey, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. His line of research focused on the intersection of play, physical activity, and child development.

Rebecca London is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on understanding the challenges faced by disadvantaged children and youth and the ways that communities and community organizations support young people to be healthy and successful.

[1] U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Considerations for schools.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html

[2] Sprang G, Silman M. Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents and youth after health-related disasters. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013;7:105–110

[3] Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet. 2020;395(10227):912‐920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8

[4] Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2015). School readiness and self-regulation: A developmental psychobiological approach. Annual Review of Psychology, 66(1), 711–731.

[5] Qian H, Miao T, LIU L, Zheng X, Luo D, Li Y. Indoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2. medRxiv. 2020;(17202719):2020.04.04.20053058. doi:10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058

[6] Venter ZS, Barton DN, Gundersen V, Figari H. Urban nature in a time of crisis : recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo , Norway

[7] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” IPAworld, May 1, 2012, http://ipaworld.org/childs-right-to-play/uncrc-article-31/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-1/.

[8] Global Recess Alliance. School Reopening? Make Sure Children Have Daily Time for Recess. 7 May 2020. https://globalrecessalliance.org/.

Managing Your Child’s (and Your Own) Hidden Emotions During COVID-19

Mom talking to emotional teenage daughter

As a primary caregiver for a child, have you had COVID-19 moments when your anxiety got to an uncomfortable level? Have you feared for a child who you knew was not best served by the lack of variety, social freedom and the structure of school, sports or work?

I have.

Whether during a sleepless night or a quiet moment in my easy chair, I have found it is all too easy to let the reptilian brain imagine unhappy scenarios for my family that I cannot fix.

You see, I, like many of you, am the fixer. A staff member gave me a Brian Andreas poster that says, “He carried a ladder almost everywhere he went and after awhile people left all the high places to him.”

When you are a problem-solver, it can become a high expectation for yourself that the buck always stops here. With me. Eventually.

Of course, I don’t stay there. But as parents, we struggle even if we don’t let it show.

My best way out of my own emotional work is to study and understand what is happening so I have a plan. Intuitively, I may know what to do, but listening to professionals can be a great reassurance.

So, what are they saying?

Here is how to take care of our kids. (I am putting this first even though I know, like the metaphorical flight attendant, I should be telling you to put your mask on first. We will get to that.)

Child Trends tells us we have three primary Rs to undertake with our kids. Reassurance, Routines and Regulation. Our kids can read us better than we can read ourselves. They need reassurances that we believe ourselves.

As parents we need to be guardians of the truth repelling false narratives. They need to understand in our words, in age-appropriate context, what is happening in the world and that adults are doing all they can to manage it.

Next, they need routines. Predictability is a great reducer of anxiety and the structure can reduce depression. Through routines the family can bond together against an external challenge. We are in this together.

The whole family needs regulation. No binging on coffee or cokes. No counting on sugar rushes to improve mood if that was your thing. Good sleep schedules. Moderation in TV, devices and togetherness. Watch your introverts and don’t force them together too much and your extraverts that they are not dying for more connection.

Is there a parent who doesn’t feel guilty that device usage is spiking? It is a concern for normal times and sure, now too. But the best day my teenagers had was when they and a group of friends overdosed on Fortnight on two computers. The laughter and screams were something I could not create for them. The access to devices and a shared platform created the kind of connection only peers can provide. Monitor for safety but recognize that devices can create emotional lifelines.

How will you know if your child is OK? The National Association for School Psychologist recommends watching for significant behavioral changes. That might look like clinging in preschoolers to agitation and sleep disruption in teenagers. I ask my kids every morning, “How did you sleep?” They probably see it as a greeting, but it is a real check-in.

During the crisis, not all  children in our homes may need professional mental health support, but every child needs what Child Trends calls a “sensitive and responsive caregiver.” The deeper the wounds your child may carry, the more skilled they are at catching a “poser” versus someone who authentically cares and is there for them. Having that presence creates an anchor that tethers each child to an emotional shore.

Erika’s Lighthouse recommends three simple communications everyone can say. I notice. I care. How can I help? I notice you seem down today. I am sorry. Is there anything I can do to help? And then they give this advice that everyone would benefit from: Be quiet and listen. Yes, validate their feelings. But don’t problem solve immediately. And for sure, don’t try to tell them they should not feel that way. It might hurt that you cannot solve their problem. It might feel like they made choices that you want to criticize. If you continue down that road they will not want to communicate. None of us would.

Remember that like all of us adults, individualized responses are key. None of our children will respond to the same methods of care.

Let’s return to the idea of our children needing to feel tethered to a caring adult. That only works if you are a source of strength for them.

How do we manage our often-hidden emotions?

A longtime life coach used to say it this way. “Observe your emotions like a leaf floating on a river. But don’t make an altar to your feelings.” I love that advice, because stuffing our feelings never works, acknowledging them does. But building a case in our minds to justify our feelings to ourselves and others is self-defeating.

Our feelings come from lots of places but often from the way we think.

It is difficult to manage your information diet without a plan. Dr. Earl Turner reminds us that anxiety is a fear of the unknown. He says we can reduce anxiety by being informed and knowledgeable, but that overdosing on our COVID-19 consumption can elevate our anxiety. Know when to stop. My husband in the middle of the news stood up and said, “I am going for a walk.” Good self-regulation.

If we don’t want to be suffering internally, there are two time-worn tricks that are hard as hell, acceptance and staying in the moment. Suffering germinates from our insistence that things should and must be different. Acceptance of what we cannot control is the antidote to bargaining with reality. We need to use every trick in the book to stay in the present. The future brings anxiety and the past only offers regrets and nostalgia.

Today, use all your senses to experience the physical world as it is this moment. Harness your mind to deal with today’s challenges for which we all are provided enough grace. The universe seems to dish out grace only as we actually need it—not for future imagined possibilities.

Breathe. Walk. Play with your animals. Serve others. Journal. Pray. Patiently take one day at a time.

No one said it would be easy, but as a 70’s era gospel singer Evie sang, “Don’t run from reality. You have to face every day like it is.”

Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director at National PTA and the proud dad of two adopted teenagers, Kira and Gonzalo.

Use Healthy Habits All Year Long!

Remind kids to continue using healthy habits during the spread of COVID-19

No matter the time of year, everyday preventative hygiene habits should be taught to children to help curb the spread of germs. Especially in our current public health climate, it’s more important than ever to teach healthy habits to your children. Lysol and National PTA endorse following the following six steps that are recommended by the CDC to help stop the spread of COVID-19:[1]

  • Wash Your Hands: The number one thing you should be doing is washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to wash between your fingers and underneath your nails as much as possible.
  • Cover Your Mouth: Make sure that you are covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throwing it directly in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow and not your bare hand so you don’t spread the germs when you touch something.
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Be conscious of touching your eyes, nose and mouth as it is an easy way to transfer germs to yourself.
  • Disinfect Frequently Touches Surfaces: Make it a habit to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs and light switches, on a daily basis to help curb the spread of germs.
  • Practice Social Distancing: Put distance between yourself and others whether or not COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting sick.
  • Stay Home When You Are Sick: Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.

[1] CDC.gov. “How to Protect Yourself

Advocacy Spotlight: Gun Violence Prevention

Gun violence is such an overwhelming issue in our nation, it can be paralyzing to think about. How can you as one parent, or even as one PTA unit, make a difference? Thankfully, there are PTAs who have been paving the way, and we had the chance to talk with three representatives from Mercer Island PTA, Lori Cohen-Sanford, Erin Gurney, and Gwen Loosmore.

Mercer Island PTA has been advocating for gun violence prevention since 2018. They shared with us their lessons learned and advice for like-minded groups.

What do families need to know about gun violence and gun violence prevention?

Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for youth in our country. Over half of those gun deaths are suicides. Everyone has a role in gun violence prevention. If families do own guns, they need to make sure they are safely stored. Families need to feel comfortable asking if there are guns in the home, when their children go for a playdate– just like they would share about any allergies or ask about pets or swimming pool safety.

What strategies have you found most effective when advocating for gun violence prevention?

It’s crucial to know your platform. Familiarize yourself with National PTA’s position statement. Mercer Island PTA has made a habit of laminating them and bringing them everywhere!

Don’t forget that PTA is an advocacy association. We speak on behalf of all children ESPECIALLY on behalf of children’s safety. We have the authority as PTA members to advocate for these positions. It’s helpful to have or establish a state platform, as well. We have found that parents want to act, so it’s helpful to give them something to do – specific bills to support, newsletters to read, encouragement to ask about guns in the home at playdates, etc. We really say that we are doing the advocacy work one conversation at a time. It’s also important to remember that every parent wants the violence to stop. There is a lot of common ground and we need to normalize the conversation around firearms in our society.

What advice do you have for PTAs who want to make gun violence prevention a higher priority in their school, district or state?

Talking about gun violence can make a lot of people nervous because it’s become a political issue in our country and we don’t want our schools to become split by political divides. The challenge here is to remind people that PTA is an advocacy organization and we’re advocating for student safety. What we are trying to do is change the culture in how we talk about gun violence prevention. Even gun owners are supportive of a lot of these measures.

Find like-minded parents and get organized. Consider going to non-PTA gun violence prevention organizations, like the Brady Campaign or Moms Demand, to find other local parents who share your passion.

Overcommunicate. If your leadership is concerned keep them informed of everything you’re doing, before you do it, share why, and how it falls into National PTA’s mission. National PTA already has a position statement on gun violence, and a website on family resources for school safety and questions you can start with that you KNOW falls within what PTA has authorized – start there!

Every community, every PTA, every individual has a specific set of experiences and what works for Mercer Island PTA might not everywhere. However, what is absolutely universal is people need to feel empowered and they need to know that they have the power to create change if they bring themselves together around this issue.

Curious how you can talk to your kids about these issues? Tune in to our podcast, Notes from the Backpack, to hear Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez share tips on talking to your children about gun violence in developmentally appropriate ways!