Families all over the world are learning to adapt to the evolving changes of their daily life due to COVID-19. With emergency orders to stay at home, many families found themselves unemployed or working from home and without school or daycare. Thus, not only are parents figuring out how to keep their children safe and healthy through this crisis, they are also tasked with balancing work demands while finding ways to keep their children occupied and educated at home.
While you know your family and their needs best, here are five tips that may help you manage through this new normal with your children.
Children will look to you and follow your reactions. In a time of a crisis, how you handle the situation becomes the foundation for how your children perceive this time. Are they going to remember this as the time they felt stressed out, scared, and anxious? Or are they going to remember this as the time where they had fun playing board games as a family and learned how to cook?
Although easier said than done, try to be actively aware of your body language and how your children are perceiving your behavior. Children are looking to you, the ones they trust the most, to guide them in this unknown time. By remaining calm and making the best out of the situation, children will learn to adjust to this new normal in a positive way.
While it is important to prevent your children from feeling unnecessary stress, it is also important for you to be honest with them about what is happening. They may be confused as to why they can’t go outside or visit a friend, or why they suddenly couldn’t go to school. Many children also probably feel upset or frustrated that they are no longer able to experience events they were looking forward to, like prom or graduation. Take this time to understand their frustration. Sit with them and listen to their concerns.
How you discuss COVID-19 with your child will dictate how anxious or fearful they will feel. Remind them that your family is healthy and reassure them that everyone is working hard to get through this together. Encourage them to practice proper hygiene and social distancing. Being honest with them about the situation will help them understand why the events they were looking forward to are canceled, and hopefully will lead them to accept that it was for the best. Most importantly, practice what you preach. Be the role model that not only demonstrates social distancing and positivity but also problem-solving and compassion.
It is easy for days to blend into one another when the routine of getting up to go to school or work every day is gone. It is also easy to get lost in technology if there’s no reason to keep track of time or schedules. For children, however, this can hinder their growth and development.
Maintaining a stable, yet flexible, routine is key to providing your children with a sense of control and well-being. Make sure they wake up within a certain hour each weekday. Start your morning by announcing what day it is and your plans for the day. While it sounds silly, it gives a sense of direction and ensures productivity during a time when it would be easier to do nothing.
Maintaining a schedule gives your children responsibility and structure. If they are old enough, working with your child to come up with a daily schedule will also teach them time management and the importance of prioritizing tasks. It will also help them practice discipline and help you by giving you time to focus on work. This is another good way to limit the amount of time they spend on social media or technology.
Reward your children for following their schedules and let them know that you appreciate them working with you as a team to get through each day. If your children are not yet old enough to follow their own schedule, make a schedule for them on your own and follow that schedule. This will help them find consistency and structure in their day-to-day.
Education is important but maintaining your child’s education during this time may be difficult. While many schools have implemented “distance learning” and virtual classrooms, distractions are plentiful and children may not feel the urgency to keep up with their schoolwork at home. It is easy to slack off when teachers are not there to ensure discipline in the classroom. Parents are now tasked with being an educator, tutor, and disciplinarian when it comes to their children’s education.
Kathleen Reyes, a high-school teacher, is one of many teachers who has transitioned into virtual classrooms. She commented on her experience with distance learning:
Considering I work in secondary education, my demographic is different than educators who work in primary schools. High Schoolers have a different mindset! The biggest obstacle I’ve had to endure was the divide between students and their education due to technology. I believe with distance learning, the divide will be greater because, the control, or lack thereof, when it comes to phones, social media, or technology.
To help educators bridge the learning gap through social distancing, Ms. Reyes provided insight on how parents can help their children and teachers in this unusual time:
• Encourage a routine
• Create an environment that promotes work
• Limit phone/technology and encourage reading or activities that keep the mind activated. Find interesting, educational videos if technology is to be used.
• If children are older, have set “work” times where everyone works quietly
• Be in communication with teachers via email
• Ask your children to show current progress on their schoolwork
• Check (if applicable) parent portal for grade updates
• Promote learning opportunities within the home: cooking, balancing a checkbook, organization, etc. The brain needs to be consistently stimulated with cognitive and tactile feedback.
While positive news seems few and far between these days, use this time to celebrate the opportunity for quality time together as a family. Set aside time to spend with your children each day and give them your undivided attention. While you may feel overwhelmed during this time, spending at least twenty minutes with your children will foster a strong foundation and remind them that they are loved and important. This will also give them time away from divulging in television shows and social media.
Ask your child what they would like to do. This helps build self-confidence and encourages decision-making skills. It also shows that you are engaged in their interests. This is a great opportunity to strengthen your unit as a family and learn more about each other without the hustle and bustle of daily life getting in the way. If your child cannot think of what to do, use that as an opportunity to share your interests with them and let them learn more about you.
While parenting in itself is a full-time job, make sure you carve out time to take care of yourself. Taking time to care for yourself will only help you better support your children.
Millions of people around the world are experiencing the same overwhelming feelings you have right now. Heightened stress about work, your family, your health, your safety, and your finances will cause anyone to feel in over their head. Take a few moments to yourself and remember to breathe. Wake up a few minutes before your children to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace. Don’t be afraid to lean on others. Having your own support system will help relieve some of that stress and remind you that you are not alone and that yes, you will get through this.
And most importantly, give yourself a break and know that you’re managing everything just fine. There is no perfect answer to how-to best parent through this. As long as you practice positivity and compassion and keep your children’s best interest at heart, you’re doing everything you can.
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