Ways that parents and children are adjusting to learning from home

Those of us who have the privilege of getting out of bed, getting dressed -at least from the waist up- for a virtual meeting, are counted amongst the luckiest people on earth right now. It can’t be overstated that being employed is nothing short of luxury at a time where a large percentage of the population is out of work, at least for now. Employees are having to exceed KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), all while keeping their families safe and happy during a pandemic. It’s not easy! Now, add to that the enormous task of implementing and supervising a child’s entire educational program. Nearly impossible!

Douglas and Lindsey are entrepreneurs and parents to two young girls, ages 5 and 8. 

Like the rest of the world, they are learning how to manage home and school during these trying times. This week we sat down and listened to find out how they are coping with their new reality of having to homeschool. They shared some essential tips that help them maintain peace in their household.

Talking To Children About Covid-19

Early on, the pair sat their children down and explained why they now have to learn from home, why they couldn’t hug their friends and why they couldn’t even play on the monkey bars saying, 

“The world has a virus, and people are going to get sick. We don’t know how to cure it yet, but we can help by staying inside and washing our hands”.

 Doug and Lindsay have found that offering their children a way to be a part of the solution has been a useful tool in helping minimize some of the feelings of fear and hopelessness that the girls seemed to be experiencing.

The World Organization encourages parents to do just that. Having open conversations with our children is an important first step in helping alleviate their fears.

Be willing to talk. They will already have heard something. Silence and secrets do not protect our children. Honesty and openness do. Think about how much they will understand. You know them best. Your child may be scared or confused. Give them space to share how they are feeling and let them know you are there for them.

Explain that COVID-19 has nothing to do with the way someone looks, where they are from, or what language they speak. 

Parents and Students – Patience is key

Douglas, who has taken on the role of the primary educator for both girls, stressed to us, the need to be as patient as possible when working with children in this age range.  

This is not always easy, but we have to realize that this situation is just as challenging for the child as it is for the parents. Children are entering into the “new normal” that is loaded with uncertainty for all.

Douglas explained that “It’s hard for children to conceive of this imaginary space where five minutes ago I was Dad and now I am their teacher and what was once the living room, is now their classroom” His technique? Try to give his girls a “perspective check.” 

When the girls start to get upset and declare that they don’t want to do school work, I ask them if this is how they would act if they were at school. Their answer is always a reluctant “no.”

He had to take astep back and establish the distinction between the home-space and work-space as well as play-time and work-time.

Parents need to explore ways to make the learning process more feasible and enjoyable for their children. Reminding them that their work efforts will be followed by playtime can be a great incentive. Taking the time to help children to check in with themselves and identify how they are feeling is another important step. From there, they can determine what it would feel like to be in a “ready to learn” zone. Consequently, they can brainstorm about things they can do to help them get there. This can help children feel more empowered in regards to the learning process.

The World Health Organization suggests that parents create a flexible but consistent daily routine. Make a schedule for you and your children that has time for structured activities as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure and better behaved. Children or teenagers can help plan the routine for the day – like making a school timetable. Children will follow this better if they help to make it. Include exercise in each day – this helps with stress and kids with lots of energy at home.

Create a Separate Workspace 

Experts advise that it is helpful for children to have a designated workspace at home. Helping them get set up in a comfortable, well-lighted spot where their learning tools are readily at hand, provides them with an inviting workspace.

It is equally important for parents to find a suitable workspace for themselves.

The couple has a friend who now finds herself working from home. When she tried actually doing her work in the living room, her toddler came running in to play every few minutes. How do you explain to a three-year-old that this is Mommy’s work time and space? This parent was forced to come up with a creative solution. She decided to create a makeshift office in her basement. Every workday morning, she now gets dressed, grabs her bag, kisses her little one goodbye before heading out the door. There is very little fuss as the little one waves “bye-bye “to Mommy. Little does he know Mommy is right downstairs. 

Parents and Students – Prioritize Mental Health

For Douglas and Lindsay, their priority is the emotional health of their children. For them, this sometimes means taking a mental health day to benefit both children and parents. 

Children are often unable to express the anxiety they may be experiencing due to trauma going on around them. Consequently, their stress may come out in various ways, such as them acting out – demanding more attention from their parents. 

The World Health Organization advises parents to “Take a break. Listen to your kids. Take a pause. Keeping positive, having a routine, and trying to get some, “one-to-one” time with each child when you can, will help you manage your child’s behaviors and feelings.

Taking a Pause can also be helpful when you find your child is irritating you or has done something wrong. It gives you a chance to be calmer. Even a few deep breaths or connecting with the feeling of the floor beneath can make a difference.

You can also Take a Pause with your children!

Exploring Strategies to Help Manage the Stress

When we go through something as unprecedented as a pandemic, it is understandable that we will experience feelings and emotions never before imagined. As such, we should look to professionals for help, when needed.

The WHO tells us that it is fine to say, “We don’t know, but we are working on it, or we don’t know, ‘but we think’.” Use this as an opportunity to learn something new with your child! Millions of people have the same fears as us. Find someone who you can talk about how you are feeling. Listen to them. Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked. 

Parents – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Lindsay works from a small office in the family’s home 8+ hours a day and has zero interactions with others during this period. She feels isolated when working and requires real downtime by the end of the day. By Friday, when it’s her turn to homeschool, she is completely burnt out. The couple has found that outsourcing some of their instructional time to trusted authorities has been both stimulating for the girls and relaxing for them. Because their daughters are in a French immersion program, Douglas arranges weekly Zoom French chats between them and his Aunt Julie, who is fluent in French. 

Parents can use this opportunity to help children engage in real-life learning experiences. This can take learning beyond the prescribed curriculum, allowing children to explore their passions and interests. For example, if your child is interested in Science, and there is a Scientist in your sphere, it may be worthwhile exploring if a virtual meeting could be set up so that your child could ask questions that spark their interest. 

We must do all that we can to make sure that our children do not experience an academic drop off during this period. It’s all about helping them sustain their love and curiosity for the learning process as they go through this transition.

It is important to note that while Douglas and Lindsay are experiencing the challenges that come with homeschooling, they count themselves amongst the Fortunate. At least they are in a situation where they can split the tasks between each other. Single parents with one or more children have a much lower chance of maintaining their work performance, providing their children with adequate educational support, and monitoring the family’s mental health during a global pandemic.

Many parents have relied on schools to provide children with nutritious meals throughout the school year, and now this responsibility lies squarely on their shoulders. Some families have to add the fear of their children going without a meal, to the trauma they are already experiencing.

There is a growing campaign online to encourage us to be kind to ourselves, and we agree. No one could have anticipated that all these changes would fall on our doorstep in 2020. It is hard for us all. To the parents who are trying their best and still feeling overwhelmed, just know that you are not alone. 

Here Are Some Resources For Parents

The World Health Organization

To help parents interact constructively with their children during this time of confinement, these six one-page tips for parents cover planning one-on-one time, staying positive, creating a daily routine, avoiding bad behavior, managing stress, and talking about COVID-19. Use them to your and your kids’ advantage, and have fun in doing so.

Parents who are unable to participate in their child’s physical education can use the YMCA’s supplemental videos – they are fun for kids and provide parents with well-deserved downtime.

If you live in the UK, the NHS will provide mental health services free of charge, but in some cases, you’ll need a referral from your GP to access them. Check-in, and don’t be afraid to ask for support. We are always surprised to hear how much we have to say once someone is willing to listen.

In March of 2020, Flare Magazine published an updated list of how and where Canadians can receive free or low-cost mental health support.

Here you can find a list of organizations that are working to help families dealing with food insecurity.