A Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event in history and everyone, adults and children alike, are struggling with what the implications could be. In this time of crisis, children need structure, support, and rational explanations (in small doses, so they don’t get overwhelmed) about what’s really going on in the world. Parents, especially those working from home, may find it challenging to cope with the additional role of “teacher” that they need to take on. However, it need not be so strenuous on the parent or the child if you keep these few core-ideas in mind:
- Create a realistic Time Table – One of the things the child will lack the most while school is shut is structure. It is important to stick to regular wake-up times and bedtimes, as these play a key role in the child’s mental and physical well-being. Try to include your child in creating the timetable, and make sure to schedule physical exercise, sufficient breaks, and a few fun activities for your child to do every day. It is important to keep the schedule realistic, observe how the first few days go, and then modify the schedule if necessary. If your child is unable to keep up with the schedule, there is a risk of the schedule being abandoned altogether and then chaos ensues.
- Designate a space for learning and help your child set it up – Assign a desk or a corner of the dining table for your child and let them “decorate their desk” with all the things they need. Maybe they can make a pencil stand or a calendar for their workspace. Let them take ownership.
- Make the most of online resources – during this pandemic, the internet can be your best friend. There are a host of free online learning websites and YouTube channels like – National Geographic Kids, Khan Academy, MathGames, SparkNotes, TedEducation, Veritasium. These can help keep children engaged with the subject in a way that traditional self-study might not. However, beware of too much passive screen-time because that’s also not healthy for your child. It is recommended to not have online sessions for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch, after which your child should have a tactile stimulation break (arts and crafts, some hand-writing, physical play, etc.)
- Involve your child in House-hold Chores – Household chores build character and teach your child important life-skills that they will need as adults. Involve your child in cooking, and teach them how to cook their favorite food. Cooking can also be used to teach your child some science – What are some common acids and alkalis found in your kitchen? How does water convert to ice or steam? What happens when saltwater evaporates?
- Encourage your child to use Free Time for “Active” Leisure Activities – Since much of the child’s learning has likely gone online and become “passive”, it’s important to compensate for that with some “active” leisure activities. Passive sedentary activity for long periods of time has proven links to obesity and bad mental well-being. Instead of watching TV, try encouraging your child to play old-fashioned board/card games, do arts and crafts, writing and acting in their own plays/skits at home, or re-fashioning their old clothes into new ones. If you have a backyard or even a small balcony, teaching your child how to garden could inculcate some discipline and teach them responsibility and how to care for other living things.
- Prioritize Social Contact – It is important for children to maintain their social relationships from school. Help them schedule online calls (Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype have free versions) with their friends, cousins, grandparents, etc. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen with empathy.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself and your child – This is a tough time for everyone; an unprecedented global crisis. It is hard to work from home and home-school your child at the same time and it is hard for your child to adapt to these new ways of learning. Be patient, and always remember that it is okay to home-school imperfectly, but don’t give up.