Working from home, household chores, keeping up with general life, and now, for all parents and carers, we can add ‘teacher’ to the list of jobs. I’m not surprised that many people are finding this new situation overwhelming. And, to add to this, we are juggling it all alone, in isolation, with the undercurrent of anxiety and frustration bubbling beneath the surface. At SCA, we have put together a few thoughts to help you through this difficult time:
1. Talk before you teach:
As adults, this situation is unsettling and it may be that our children are picking up on our feelings of anxiety. Of course our children’s academic education is important but achieving effective learning is almost impossible when children are battling continuous feelings of anxiety. So before trying to tackle any kind of homework, it is vital we all take some time to talk to our children and try to iron out some of their concerns. It is extremely likely that our children will have been listening quietly in the background to our fears of Covid-19, our concerns over loved ones and they may well be anxious about their friends, the change of their routine, missing their favourite club or concerned about being isolated without any peer contact. Take some time to talk and reassure before insisting on doing school work. Talking whilst doing a creative activity can be an effective way of getting children to open up. If you would like more information about supporting your child’s mental health, visit childmind.org where you will find lots of resources to help children cope during COVID-19.
2. Beware of Social Media:
A mixed blessing. While connecting with your friends and sharing activity ideas can be helpful, it can also generate feelings of insecurity and create unnecessary competitiveness. Do not be tempted to compare you and your children’s achievements with those of another. That person who just posted a picture of them and their children recreating the Eiffel Tower does not make them a better parent, a better teacher or better at anything – you have no idea of the story behind the post. Try hard to only look inwardly and celebrate your own achievements and the achievements of your children because sometimes, even the smallest successes can be bigger than the Eiffel Tower itself.
3. Plan but be flexible:
Find some time every day to prepare for the next. If you’re also trying to work from home, having everything ready for your children’s activities will mean less time being interrupted and googling for help. It is much quicker to prepare and plan in one go that it is to think of ideas on the spot (while also trying to send your boss an email). Dedicate half an hour at the end of the day to print out some bits, find the craft from the cupboard and lay it out in an organised way so that your children can access it independently if necessary. For younger children, have a puzzle or two down from the shelf, a colouring table ready and some role play set up enticingly can help to engage your children, especially if you need to do a few jobs yourself. Remember to be flexible with your plans, it doesn’t matter that your child didn’t finish his maths today, it can be finished tomorrow and if he struggled with it, plan in some time to go through it with him.
4. Keep it simple:
Don’t be too ambitious with how much you expect your children to do in a day. Younger children will have a much shorter concentration span so do not expect them to spend too long doing an activity. 20 minutes is about average for a 6 year old, 40 minutes for a 10 year old. If you have a work call, plan to spend some time talking through an activity before the call: explain the task, check their understanding by starting the activity together, tell them they will be working independently but after your call you will go through the work and talk about anything they found hard. Lastly, discuss what your child will do when they are finished eg. play with lego, football in the garden – that way they won’t run into your conference call waving their completed maths sheet only for you to tell them off!
Don’t panic if you’re finding your child’s work challenging, or you can’t remember how to do, say, long division, you won’t be the only one! If you’re unsure, leave it – nothing can destroy a child’s confidence more than unclear, incorrect instructions. If you can email their teacher for advice then great, otherwise make a note for their teacher to go through this when children are back at school.
5. Magpie ideas:
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel! There is masses and masses of educational resources and activity ideas to suit all ages and abilities on the web. During this time, lots of sites are offering parents free access to their resources. All teachers use Twinkl.co.uk, not just for printable sheets but it also has presentations to help you teach your child something specific. For Early Years children, sites like pinterest and Instagram share lots creative ideas and activities.
Part of all children’s education at ALL ages, is learning to be independent. At school or nursery, surrounded by 30 other children, they will not always have access to an adult and so, most children, will be used to having some independence already. You DO NOT need to constantly helicopter over your child while they work or play. Build in time where you work and play together but allow them time by themselves too. If your child has work to do, it is important they can make mistakes and have the space to correct their work before you start pointing them out. For younger children, it is a good skill to be able to amuse themselves for short periods of time and you’d be surprised at how much you will learn about your child by letting them play independently!
All this time at home gives an opportunity for us all to read more. Read, read, read. Read stories to your children, ask your children to read stories to you. Make dens to read in, draw pictures about books, spend time as a family exploring books. This is the BEST education you can give your children.
Key to mental health. If you can get outside for exercise then all the better. Thank goodness for all the online PTs out there – if PE with Joe Wicks is not your thing or you need a variation, there are masses of follow-along classes on Youtube for all ages, including cosmickids.com for children’s yoga classes, Barre classes etc.
9. Family Time:
If something good can come out of this isolated period, perhaps it is our re-evaluation of what it means to spent quality family time together. Play games, talk, read, exercise as a family and your children may well look back at this time as some of their best memories. Try to stay connected to friends and family via the internet, especially if you’re a single parent managing alone and need reminding of what a good job you’re doing. In this fast-moving world where finding the right work-life balance is so hard, perhaps this is the turning point in our society where collectively we realise that life and family should carry more weight.
If you need any help or advice supporting your children through the Coronavirus crisis, please get in touch with SCA Childcare Agency via firstname.lastname@example.org. For children’s activity ideas, follow us on Facebook or Instgram @scachildcare.