Some social scientists can put a number on it. Kids can only go so long without their school routine. Moreover, there are only so many days a parent can go — without their child’s school routine.
Hunkered down, social distancing, self-quarantining — whatever you want to call it — will add stresses to family life. The children would rather be at school with their friends, and parents will work remotely — if that is an option. Confinement affects everyone. These five tips may help make parenting easier in times of community concern.
5 tips for reducing stress under siege:
- Purpose: Parents should not set out to replicate their school experience. Homeschooling is an alternative experience. You can do what you can to make their time creative and engaging, following their interests and your strong points.
It would be easier if there were a firm end date for their return to school. But absent that, you should work with them to fill their time with attraction and distraction. They can live stream a movie or television series, but you should select one for its learning experience.
- Routine: School and work are routines. Children from terrible twos onward want independence. However, while they won’t admit it, they unconsciously seek routine.
Children, especially younger ones, are very present in the moment of play or learning. They don’t think too far ahead unless there is a felt goal. With Disneyland out of the picture, they will look forward to going for ice cream or to the playground.
Parents would be smart, then, to post a schedule of studies, television, music, and rewards. They should be held to the schedule, and that will come easier if you include them in creating and posting the routine.
- Media: The routine must be built around learning. However, learning involves much more than textbooks. If they are engaged in schoolwork, chances are it is because their teachers use multiple approaches.
The routine should include variety as well as structure. It’s more than blocks of time. If you have even basic technology access, you can weave several learning methodologies through the lesson plans.
- The local school system may provide some online resources.
- Most public libraries have a variety of reading resources online.
- Parents Magazine lists many resources for homeschooling parents.
- Khan Academy, for instance, provides scores of brief pointed lessons on as many different topics.
- Clickschooling.com offers structured curricula and virtual field trips.
- Readingeggs.com has reading lessons for the youngest. And,
- Academicearth.org broadcasts advanced lectures on various topics for high school students.
- Limit YouTube. You can create a folder on YouTube containing videos of value. YouTube has thousands of “how-to” videos which can be useful. It contains many videos you could link to a project or theme. But the channel also contains a lot beyond their psychological age and emotional readiness.
- Google for Education guides you through how to optimize Google technology for teaching. That may be more work than you want to invest, but with the potential of children not returning to school at all, it could support you well.
- De-stress: Parents have needs, too. If are not a working adult, homebound children will still upset your routine. You can connect with your network of friends to see what work and recreation you might share.
With playdates and entertainment under control, there are still trips to drive-thru restaurants, strolls through public parks, and outdoor games available. Children have been disproportionately immune to this pandemic, but they can carry the disease. You can make this a lesson in community.
If you have left the workplace to work remotely, you still have a job. However, staying productive is challenging. Your children will find sleeping in a plus, and you can use that time to connect with others at work to plan the day. Most work-at-home opportunities allow you to run your own hours, so you may work while the children are napping or when they’re in bed.
If you have lost your job, the stresses have compounded. Paying rent and bills creates acute stress for parents. And, because children pick up on those fears and frustrations, it doubles your worries. The people at Scholastic say, “Young kids tend to personalize others’ mood changes and blame themselves.” It’s a parental duty to help them understand this is not their fault.
If you suffer from anxiety and depression, you are pre-disposed to a deepening of those conditions. You do not have to visit your doctors to confer with them, get prescription renewals, or seek direction to available resources.
- Open Up: Children, more than adults, live felt lives. They are hugely perceptive and quick to draw conclusions. It’s to your advantage and theirs to be open, honest, and clear about what is happening around them. You must use terms they understand, draw pictures where you can, and not overstate the fear.
They look to you for empathy and parenting — which is really a life of emotional connectedness. So, turn off the constant news feed. What you might do is make a 10-minute news segment part of their daily curriculum. You can tie to geography, biology, and health lessons as a matter of course.
One healthy conclusion —
Quarantining is a challenge. The most you can do it provide what leaders should. The people who depend on you want to feel a consistent calm. That does not mean you cannot talk about serious subjects. It does not mean you should bury your concerns. Calm does not mean “complacent,” but it does mean establishing an emotional center for yourself and communicating that with consistent behavior. You need do little more than recite to yourself: “When all the world is a hopeless jumble/ And the raindrops tumble all around/
Heaven opens a magic lane” (Harold Arlen / E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, 1939).