As a society we are all dealing with new challenges to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. One added challenge you may be facing if you are a parent is the closure of your child’s school.
This means that the typical family situation will be grownups and children at home spending the day together, trying to get along, and trying to be productive.
Managing children at home during work hours
Psychologists generally agree that children benefit from rules. Laying down rules will make life better for the family in the long run, despite any resistance during the beginning.
With lockdowns and isolation as precautions against COVID-19, some of the usual options for stimulating and entertaining children are not available. You can’t take them to museums or the movies as they’ve been closed. Play dates with friends and other visits are not possible either.
- Setting out rules.The more structure you can give children in a way that integrates with your life the better off you will all be. A sense of continuity will be a reassurance to your children.
- Independence. Perhaps now is the time they can learn to do more jobs around the house. Take a moment to explain to them the benefits of keeping your living space tidy. Maybe now is the time for them to learn to put together snacks, or even cook meals. Do they know how the washing machine works? Showing them you trust them to do these things and letting them find out how capable they can be will contribute to their sense of self-worth and maturity.
- Routine. Start off the day making it very clear to your kids that weekdays will stay different from weekends. If they were at school at 10 a.m., they would be dressed, working and using their brains, not slouching around watching TV. The routine can be simple or detailed depending on how much energy you feel you have to invest in it. Begin by scheduling when you expect them to do schoolwork, and when you want to have meals and breaks. Play your hand carefully when offering times for things they know they enjoy. Encouraging them to cultivate meaningful interests and hobbies may tax your resolve but it will open them up to more rewarding stimulation in the future.
- Screen time and sugar. It would be extremely difficult to completely banish screens and sugar, so you can compromise by incorporating their attraction to motivate your children positively, keeping them as a treat. Set up a schedule for your children’s snacktime, TV viewing, and use of their devices. Use a timer for screentime if helpful. Your mission will be to get them to take part in as much healthy activity as possible while conserving enough patience and energy to tackle everything else in life.
- Play. Harness your children’s energy by making clean-up time a game. Consider mothballing the toys that have never captured your child’s interest. Your children will probably have forgotten about the toys at the back of the cupboard or under their bed. Consider organizing them into a series of boxes—when they have had all the fun possible from one set, get your child to pack them up and then bring out fresh reserves.
- Maintaining schoolwork. Again, it’s vital to remind your child that this is not vacation time and that learning needs to continue. It is possible for you to keep continuity of their lessons at home and focus on their curriculum. Education professionals find that children’s brains start to lose their capacity for learning during long holidays, especially if they are starved of stimulation. Whether they are in early or middle childhood or adolescence, it will benefit them greatly if you can look for an appropriate learning routine that will allow them to do something productive. Ideally this will be something that allows them to work independently.
Keeping children happy and safe
Our children’s physical health will be our first concern. Going outside will benefit them in many ways as long as they are social distancing. Studies show that vitamin D** from sunlight helps our bodies to fight upper respiratory tract infections.
The sudden interruption to their school schedule may upset your children in ways they will find hard to appreciate. They may miss play dates and socializing. Check in with them regularly. You are the best person to recognize what’s going on with them.
Limit news reports but keep your children informed about the basic changes to their routines and what to expect. This will help them come to terms with changes gently and it will have less shock value coming from the person they know and trust. Children may be very sensitive to your reaction to news, especially children with a predisposition to anxiety.
The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be compared to any other situation we have faced in recent years, so we are all learning how to adapt as the situation unfolds. It’s important throughout this experience to remember that coming through successfully depends on us taking care of ourselves and our families. The effort required to maintain this care is a discipline, but we must not forget the importance of being flexible, keeping perspective, and forgiving small things that ultimately may not be important.
*The information in this article is provided by Shepell, the provider of CDSPI’s Members’ Assistance Program (MAP). MAP services and resources are offered through Shepell, Canada’s largest provider of Employee and Family Assistance Programs.