We are living in a strange time right now. In Ireland and many other countries, we have been thrust into school closures with the advice of keeping children apart to ensure that coronavirus does not spread. This places sudden and sizeable stress on parents and children alike. Although we could see school closures coming, it came quite fast and children may be at home now with no real school guidance on what the best course of action is. Here are a few thoughts below that may be of help to parents or teachers:
The media sells fear. This is a known principle of how media drives traffic to their websites and purchases of their newspapers. Anxious children do not need to be exposed to a 24-hour newsfeed about a virus they do not fully understand. Adults do not either. Limit the amount of coronavirus related media that children (and yourself) are exposed to. Limit the amount of talk about the coronavirus around children also. There is no need for children to listen to speculation, repeated reporting and scare-mongering which can be sure to contribute to their anxiety.
Children are advised not to mix with other children as they can help spread the disease to the more vulnerable. If you have a child with ADHD, ADD or any abundance of energy, this does not mean that you have to lock them inside. The advice seems to suggest being outside is a safe environment. Go to big parks, fields, forests or anywhere in nature where you believe contact with others will be minimal. Teach your child the concept of social distancing like a bubble around other families and explore places that, otherwise, you might not have the chance to explore.
One of the best ways to maintain a calm, positive environment is to make sure a lively child gets an opportunity to burn off some of their energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and preventing misbehaviour before it has a chance to arise is always a good tip.
Remember: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices!
As this is an unprecedented event, teachers and parents have been left scrambling at what to do. There has been a noble effort by schools and teachers to direct learning remotely but I believe this is not the way to move forward.
The teacher may be able to provide some beneficial guidance on applications and websites to utilise or pages in books to complete but this is a wonderful opportunity for your child to experience one-to-one learning that they otherwise would not get.
I would suggest the following list of activities that would be a more beneficial way to spend the bulk of “educational time” while at home:
- Play board games to teach strategic thinking and problem-solving.
- Bake or cook dinners together to teach healthy living and weight in maths.
- Writing out shopping lists for practicing spelling and handwriting.
- Gardening to teach about science or geography.
- Paint a fence or a wall to teach about fo
- Get out into nature for geography and P.E.
- Play with Lego, mechano or any other construction for science.
- Get children to dress up in adult clothes for a fashion show for drama.
- Clean bedrooms and re-organise the house to teach executive functioning skills.
- Read to your child or have them read to you for English.
- Listen to podcasts and talk about them for oral language.
- Bring home a few empty cardboard boxes from the supermarket and let them loose with colours, sellotape and scissors for art.
There is a list of exciting opportunities to entertain, education and enjoy time with your children over the next few weeks. Creativity and energy are needed but the chance to teach your own child should be grasped with both hands. It’s also important to note that the whole world will be spending more time watching television and on screens at the moment and we should reflect this with our children. There is nothing wrong with binge-watching television right now to entertain ourselves in the evening when everyone is tired out.
Control the Controllables
There is very little in our control at the moment regarding the wider world but we can control our actions. The important things we need to impress on our children is that there is no need to panic or worry but there is a need to be careful. We should educate our children to:
- Wash their hands with correct technique frequently.
- Cough into their elbow.
- Practice social distancing.
- Avoid mixing with their friends in person (encourage calling their friends on phones).
After these four points, there is very little else we can do right now other than take the positives where we can and enjoy the extra quality time with our loved ones.