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How to parent through a pandemic

Parenting through a pandemic is something few of us have experience of. The coronavirus has ripped through societies around the world, closing schools and businesses and rendering life unrecognisable from just a few weeks ago. While being told to stay home and sit this virus out may come as a relief to some, for parents, the prospect of home schooling while simultaneously working from home themselves is a significant, sudden challenge.

There are many tips that parents can follow to ease the path and draw as much fulfilment from this new reality as possible. However, for many, the sheer volume of advice on home schooling can be overwhelming at a time when just about every aspect of life has changed.

Below are some simple tips to help you manage this time and your expectations.

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How to parent through a pandemic

1. Be realistic about what you can achieve – this is a completely transformed way of living for everyone, and we should expect that productivity for children and adults alike may take a dip. That is fine. If we are realistic, we can build from what we are achieving in a positive way rather than dwelling on what we are not achieving.

2. Be clear about what it is that you are doing – this is not home education. You are not home schooling. You are not expected to be running a full curriculum with your children. It is a temporary situation which requires some temporary measures to be put in place, one of which is that you help your child through some learning activities. You are not expected to drop everything and teach.

3. Create a schedule – but don’t be a slave to it. You may find it helpful to loosely structure what you want to do each day with your children, but this will work best if you can build flexibility into your structure. Aim to zone the day into chunks of time for school work, outdoor play if possible, rest, screen time, reading, eating and so on. The key to making this work is to be as flexible as possible, giving children an element of choice over how their day is structured. It is fine if you and your children need these chunks of time to be set, or if you prefer there to be some room for movement. Don’t compare your schedule with anyone else’s. Your situation is unique!

4. Go outside – fresh air is incredibly important for our physical and mental health so if you have a garden, use it as much as you can. If the latest advice allows you to, go for a walk in your neighbourhood too. Set yourself and your children exercise challenges using anything you have available, for example, scooters, trampoline, skipping ropes, and balls, or if you cannot get outside, set up an obstacle course around your home.  

5. Look after yourself – we are all operating under unprecedented conditions and some have significant additional challenges of job losses and severe income reductions to manage too. It is important to notice how you are feeling and how this emotion might be having an impact on your close relationships. Take care and give yourself the time to do what it takes to support your mental health.

6. Do something kind each day – as part of your daily routine, get your children to do something kind each day. Set the example for this through your own words and actions. Help your children connect with friends via technology, have virtual play dates, ask each other how they are feeling and what they are doing. Help children to become more aware of their immediate environment. If you are in a WhatsApp group of neighbours, talk about how you are all looking out for one another. If you possibly can, consider donating online to a food bank such as www.trusselltrust.org or www.fareshare.org.uk.

7. Go steady – there is no need for children to rush through work set by school and additional worksheets downloaded from the internet. Children will be processing their new life as much as you are and it is important that they have the time and space to do that. Your home is a safe haven for your children; a space away from school. It is important that it remains the place where they can fully express their needs and emotions. Give yourselves time and space to adjust and adapt.

8. Make learning an adventure that you go on together – You may well have packs of work to complete from school, but there are also numerous activities that you can do together just for the fun of it! Learn a language together with DuoLingo (www.duolingo.com), learn to bake bread together (https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/easy-bake-bread), or listen to stories together (there are many storytelling podcasts and apps to choose from). There is also online support for learning an instrument, doing body percussion, learning to draw and much more.

9. Aim to teach a skill – does your child need to learn how to tell the time, or a particular times table? Do they need to brush up on spelling or keyboard skills, are they interested in art and design? Can they learn to dress themselves or do useful chores around the home? These skills are invaluable in the all-round development of children so grab this opportunity to help them master a skill that is not necessarily related to school work while you are more likely to have time to focus. 

10. Be realistic about screen time – there will be days that fly by with barely a thought of watching a screen and other days where screens save the day. That’s fine. In the grand scheme of this pandemic, a little extra screen time will not hurt, as long as it is safe.  

11. Laugh together – laughter really is a great medicine. Find reasons to laugh – share (age appropriate) jokes, gifs, memes. Take a look at www.beano.com for inspiration.

12. Dance together – create a family playlist and dance your way round your home to all your favourite tunes!

13. Be grateful – at the end of each day, sit with your children and encourage them to reflect on 3 good things that have happened during the day.

Finally, make sure you meet children’s questions about the virus with accurate answers. There are reliable sources of information that will help:

© Life Squared 2020

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