A lot of us are under immense pressure at the moment. It feels as though one minute we were dropping the kids off to school and heading to work, then the next you were working from home and homeschooling. Well that is exactly what has happened to a lot of us. I applaud people who home-school, I think it is fantastic and a wonderful choice to make. But for many of us it wasn't our choice and not something we had ever planned on doing. So understandably it can be completely overwhelming. As we feel totally out of out depth trying to teach our kids (by the way they do math differently now apparently), juggle work and deal with the stress of a pandemic, lets take a step back and see things from our kid's point of view. kids are stressed too.
Kids have watched the world go mad. They have seen the media spreading exorbitant amounts of information about a new virus. They have watched panic buying, grocery shelves empty, hand sanitiser being used constantly, hand washing advice everywhere and people wearing masks. Then to top it off their normal routine, their usual constant, school closes. Now they are stuck home with siblings that drive them CRAZY. Understandably everyone is on edge.
Schools have sent home work packs and have online learning coming up. Now I'm not in any way criticizing teachers. I think they have have all gone above and beyond to manage this situation. But when I look through the work packs sent home I can't see a lot of time and space to help build resilience. We know that when people are stressed, the logical learning parts of their brains are not able to be accessed. Having full days of math, spelling etc when everyone is on edge is going to be volatile for families. I'm suggesting that in the school schedule, we add activities that will built resilience and calm. Surely this will only enhance our kid's ability to learn and probably our ability to teach too.
Schedules are helpful. Especially in this time where there has been so much change, having a daily schedule visually displayed can be reassuring. Having the day clearly displayed can take away some anxiety and give a sense of control. However if you want a schedule to work, I suggest you let your children be part of the planning. What time do they want to get started? What activities do they want to do in the morning? When do they want to have breaks? You may have to tell them what needs to be done, but at least giving them some control and ownership will make it more likely that they will follow it. Be realistic, no kid is going to sit at a desk and do worksheets for 6 hours a day, especially if their parent has to work too and can only offer limited help. Put in regular breaks for movement, relaxation and play. Even screen time needs to be put in. Now I'm normally pretty strict when it comes to screen time but these are not normal times. If you schedule in some time throughout the day it might just save everyone's sanity without being excessive.
There are some great examples of schedules online. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Coronavirus-Parenting-and-Homeschooling-Schedule-5332596 has some great free resources
Whenever my kids go on school holidays we write a list of things that they want to do. At the end of the holidays, even if all we did was stay home, they feel like they accomplished a lot because we ticked off our list. I'm not suggesting that "lock down" or "quarantine" is a holiday, but there is no reason why we can't make the most of being at home. Goals could be simple like kids learning to tie their shoes or know their alphabet. It could be more complex like learning to play an instrument from watching youtube tutorials. I could be health goals, such as drink more water and do something active every day. It could be relationship goals, to have special time with each child every day. The goals could be anything, but it helps if the parent sets goals too. The children will be more motivated if they see their parents trying too.
Be ready for when things become overwhelming.
Talk about how we can all be feeling stressed and it is okay to feel overwhelmed. If you talk about it early, you can have a plan with your child for what everyone can do if they feel this way. By doing this, you are also normalising that feeling so that it will feel less scary when it happens. Talk about how they might feel sad that they miss their friends, annoyed because they are sick of being home or angry because their siblings keep touching their stuff. These are all perfectly reasonable feelings to have. What we need to help our kids to understand is that they may not have control over the virus, the isolation and how long it will last, but they do have choices when it comes to managing these feelings. It could be helpful to have a space that they could go to if they need a break from everyone. You could have some sensory calming activities ready to go like blowing bubbles when needed. Or you could help them be okay with saying "I need a hug right now". It is a good idea to have your children come up with their "comfort activities". These could be their pet cat, favourite toys, relaxing play, songs, books, writing to friends or whatever helps. If you have these written up, it is easier for them to pick what they need when this comes up.
Resilience is build on gratitude. Even in the middle of a pandemic there are things to be grateful for. I shared on Instagram this week that I'm grateful that now that I'm working from home, I'm grateful that I don't have a long commute to work, I can wear comfy clothes and I don't have to wear make up. There is always something you can find to bring some joy. We can teach our kids to be grateful even in uncertain times. Usually at night, at bedtime it is a good place to ask, what brought you joy today? What was the best thing about being home today? You could always make a gratitude tree or gratitude jar.
To make a gratitude tree you can draw a bare try on a large piece of paper. Then you write what you are grateful for on some cut out leaves and stick them on the tree. You could build on this for the time of quarantine.
Image from www.themodestmomblog.com
Similarly to make a gratitude jar, you start with an empty jar. You write what you are grateful for on pieces of paper and put them in the jar. It could be like a quarantine time capsule. You could open the jar at the end of the quarantine period to talk about all the good things that came out of that time.
I think that at this time we need to take the pressure off ourselves. The school work is important but having a family that is calm and resilient is vital. Lets not get too overwhelmed by our new roles as teachers. Lets just focus on being parents and giving our kids what they need to get through this time with resilience.