Preparing For Time Home with Your Kiddos
So you just got the news that your school district is adopting an at-home schedule as we prepare to inhibit the spread of Coronavirus, and life as your family knows it will be shifting into uncharted territory. Setting aside the physical changes and challenges you will have to make, there remains a lot of anxiety surrounding just the sudden shift in schedules and routines that have helped keep the family organized for so long.
If you follow along with us, then you know that at Behaved Brain, we focus a LOT on routine, schedules, maintaining calendars and overall organization. Structure keeps children and families both physically and emotionally stable. Uprooting a withstanding routine with no preparation can, and will, wreak havoc on families. But we will all get through this, and don’t forget: we have a few days this weekend to prepare.
That’s why I wanted to take this moment to help share some helpful tips and advice that we have been recommending to our clients this week as we ALL prepare to adopt a home-schooling schedule.
Remain Calm & In Control
With all the media attention surrounding Coronavirus (Covid-19), it’s difficult to filter out what we should worry about, and what we should not to worry about. Everyone has their own opinion about what is going on, and how to approach this unique situation. I find it less important to tune into what the media is saying, but very important to consider the real obstacles ahead, and how to best navigate them.
As parents, now being faced with homeschooling our children, we are especially burdened with trying to determine how to navigate this time. And while parents may have even more to “stress” over, it’s most important to be a beacon of strength and clarity for your children.
We have talked before how children are selfish creatures, but they are also incredibly intuitive. They may or may not remember this time in their future, but they will always remember how we responded during this crisis. It is our job, and should be our primary concern, to keep things as normal as possible for them.
Create A New Schedule
Set a schedule for your child, and allow them to discuss it with you. Kids tend to react much better to change when they have a part in choosing the options. You can preface the conversation by saying something like, “For the next couple of weeks, things are going to be a little different. We are going to be home from school and work, and I get to help you learn.” Have them write down a schedule with you, and set the stage for a new routine to continue. Having too much open-ended time is not going to be good for you, or for them. Remember that unstructured time is when frustrations can increase. Don’t forget that “structured” can mean fun, like outdoor playtime, crafting, cooking or something engaging and fun for them.
I would recommend a schedule similar to the following:
- 9:00am Morning wake-up and breakfast
- 9:15am – 10:00am Get dressed and ready for the day (or take advantage of some extra “PJ time”)
- 10:00am – 11:00am Academic Time (prepare reading or writing assignments, or whatever your children were given from their school to work on)
- 11:00am Break for snack time
- 11:30 am – 12:00pm “Play” time with interactive or educational games
- 12:00pm – 12:45 pm Outdoor time/walk
- 12:45pm – 1:15pm Lunch time
- 1:15pm – 3:00pm Academic time (or finish up “at-home” schoolwork for the day)
- 3:00pm – 4:00pm Free play or arts & crafts
- 4:00pm – 5:00pm Outdoor time
- 5:00pm – 6:00pm Dinner time
- 6:00pm – 8:00pm Family time
- 8:00pm – 9:00pm Bedtime routine
Create An Engaging Space
Providing toys and activities that will encourage your children to play and learn will help fill their time better, and will hopefully decrease their complaining. I would suggest cleaning out some of your toys and creating a space for learning, with access to art supplies, blocks and building supplies, and plenty of space for imaginary play. Less is more for sure, and you can link to our play blog for more information on the importance of playtime and how to create that environment for your child.
For parents of older kids or teens, it can be more difficult to have them play outside or play on their own. I would highly recommend limiting the amount of screen and internet access they have at this time, especially with the unpredictability of what is going to happen, and the high focus of the media. We know that simply scrolling through our social media feeds can be stressful and increase cortisol. Perhaps take this time to play more family games together, or take part in their academics with them. Set time limits and the overall boundaries early, so that they are aware of when they need to get schoolwork done. I would encourage some outdoor time or exercise for them as well, as we know that nature can be incredibly grounding, and the time outside and movement can help decrease stress and cortisol levels.
Practice What You Preach
As parents, follow the same guidelines. Set structure for yourself as to when you need to work, and work your children’s schedules around this. Perhaps you need to alternate work hours with your spouse to take care of the demands of childcare. Turn off your phone as much as you can, and take outdoor breaks. We need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves so that we can be present and aware for our families. Try to limit conversations about your fears to other adults, and away from your children. Try to keep the news off during these times, as the media will likely cause more stress than anything else. Creating a calm, comforting and engaging environment where your children can learn and play is the overall goal.
Be Their Sounding Board
As scary as this feels, we can take advantage of this unplanned time to be disconnected and spend time together as a family. We will all get through this, and for our children, we want them to have as much control and calm over the situation as possible. You can answer their questions as they come up, and explain this new schedule and change, but I would avoid letting them listen to the news as they don’t have the frontal lobe capacity to understand and put things into perspective. I would allow them the knowledge that it is our job as adults to worry and plan, and keep them safe. As for them, their role in this new routine is to continue learning and playing. Encourage them to ask questions and keep a calm, open dialogue as things are different right now, and there is no way to hide that from them.
There are a number of home-schooling curriculums (https://www.pearsonhomeschool.com, https://www.time4learning.com) available online for download if you are not able to access learning from your school. I would highly recommend renting digital books or audiobooks from your library. Sitting down and taking the time to read and learn together, shutting off from social networking and the news, will be healthy for the whole family.
Please try to practice mindfulness and breathing. This is uncharted territory for all of us, and we have to take this a day at a time. Make educated choices in how to protect your family, and limit the amount of emotional trauma our kids will experience. We can only do the best we can-and we can only control certain things. Don’t put to much pressure on yourself as parents, as you are the best parent for your child!