How to Support Children at Home when Schools Close due to Coronavirus
With so many schools closing due to Coronavirus, a lot of parents, children, teachers and schools are facing challenges when it comes to transitioning to learning at home. Some countries have closed all schools while some countries, have left this decision up to individual schools. Whatever the case may be, parents are worried. Children will be missing school time and classes and parents may not have the know-how to support children in their studies. There are standardized tests scheduled and no one knows when school will resume or if the tests will be postponed or cancelled. However, there are ways to make the transition easier and more beneficial for children.
Children being at home for a while (regardless of the reasons) is a great opportunity for parents to focus on a more holistic approach to learning for their child. While schools are more focused on academic subjects, now is a great time to work on character building, thinking skills, problem solving, life skills, etc. Here's a list of how to take advantage of the situation.
1- Have a clear routine for children. Routines give a sense of safety and stability. A big change, such as staying home due to Coronavirus, will disturb a child's feeling of stability. One of the worst things a parent could do at this time is to change a child's routine. For example, changing the time that children go to bed or wake up will increase their feelings of instability. Even though children do not need to wake up to go to school, they probably have online lessons and can spend the whole day learning. They also need to feel that, even though things are changing outside, their home is stable, safe and secure.
Set a routine for the day. Things that can be fixed are meal times, online learning times, activity time, reading time, hobby time, etc. As schools have fixed routines, we can do the same at home. There can be a lot more flexibility and choice which can be agreed upon every morning but the overall routine should be in place.
2- Be honest with children. They know something big is happening. Children of all ages sense when something is wrong. Trying to reassure children that everything is ok when they feel it isn't, only teaches them to distrust their own emotions and instincts. Parents can choose how much or what to say, based on their child's age but they should not pretend that everything is fine. Children need to talk about what is worrying them and what fears they have. They've probably heard or read about Coronavirus from a lot of different sources or people. Some were definitely unreliable so parents need to talk to their children rather than avoid the topic.
Children also need to learn how to protect themselves rather than give in to fear. This is a good time to make children understand and become proactive rather than just scared. The more the topic is avoided, the more fear builds up as we always fear what we don't understand.
This is also an excellent opportunity to teach analysis and synthesis skills. Children can learn how to analyze an article, webpage, Facebook post or even TV channel to evaluate if the information is accurate or not. They could learn to research and understand rather than just accept any information as truth.
3- Teach skills. This is a great time to learn life skills, problem solving skills, etc. There are basic life skills that numerous graduates now lack. These can be turned into activities that integrate different skills for a more holistic learning experience. An activity as simple as making pancakes could integrate a lot of subjects. They could read a recipe, measure ingredients, maybe calculate half or double the quantities, research and understand scientific reactions, etc. This could be taken further in so many ways. They could read and compare different recipes, writing their own recipe, modify a recipe based on their own tastes, etc.
4- Ensure children get enough movement. Children need to move, this helps the blood flow to the brain and enhances their learning. Research shows that integrating more movement with less actual 'learning time' is a lot more effective than increasing lessons and learning at the expense of movement. If it's unsafe to go outside, children could still do a lot indoors. Use YouTube videos for workouts, dance, yoga, etc., to ensure that children move as much as they need to.
5- Give time for unstructured play and creativity. While most schools are using online portals for learning, you don't want your child staring at a screen all day. Children need interaction, movement, opportunities to be creative, opportunities to learn that are not related to a screen. There are so many things children could do. Drawing, painting, coloring, role playing, reading, writing their own story or book, crocheting, crafting, cooking, etc., are all activities that enhance creativity and are fun for children. If there are things that need to be fixed around the house, it could also be a learning opportunity (as long as it is safe). For example, children could use recyclable materials to come up with a storage solution for their toys.
6- Allow children to be bored. With so much to do and so many apps, programs, gaming consoles, etc., children are hardly ever bored. Being bored allows children to become creative. They use their imagination to pretend and role play. While they should not be bored all day, it is beneficial for them to sometimes become bored and use their imagination to occupy themselves.
7- Arrange for playdates. One of the biggest changes your child will feel, will be the lack of social interaction that they have at school. Children need to interact with other children as well as adults. Try not to isolate your child; if it's safe, have them invite their friends over or have them visit their friends. If this is not possible, they can video conference while doing one of their online lessons. This would encourage discussions, questions, peer-learning and a feeling of relative normalcy if they learn with the same children who are in their class.
While this is an unfortunate situation that is affecting everyone differently, one constant is that we always want the best for our children. Parents may be worried that children will miss out on classes, or that they'll be stuck at home all day. Instead, they can try to make the most of having their children at home by bonding with them while supporting them when it comes to school work and learning.