School Closures – practical tips to get the best out of this challenging time with your children.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
As regularly readers know I was a Deputy Head and Class Teacher for 25 years and have brought up 2 kids so I know about the ups and downs of having children.
But this is a time of unprecedented challenge and change.
Children have been sent home indefinitely from school.
The first piece of advice I would offer is to stay calm.
Children are watching, looking, listening and observing you all the time – they take their lead from you so be mindful about how you talk about the virus, how you address the pandemic and how you speak about what’s happening in the country but also how you speak about having your children home indefinitely.
Don’t speak about them as a nuisance, a drag, and inconvenience as that will damage their self esteem and confidence.
Use this time wisely.
Change your mindset.
Change your habits.
Create new habits, routines and ways of thinking.
Keep the long term bigger picture and don’t catastrophise.
Good things come from adversity.
Appreciation for small things like cups of coffee with friends and hugs with elderly loved ones.
A shift in culture towards appreciation for nurses, doctors, teachers and carers.
Gratitude for a multitude of small things as well as the big things like the NHS.
A realisation that we are all One. Interconnected, interrelated, and reliant on one another.
There’s a poster that I see floating around social media that says ‘In a world where you can be anything. Be Kind.’ Perhaps that’s a good mantra to adopt while queuing at the supermarket, breaking up another sibling fight between your kids and sighing as your partner does that annoying thing again!
Explain to your kids, in an age-appropriate way, that schools are closing in an effort to slow the spread of this virus in the wider community, as children have so far shown milder symptoms than adults but we all need to protect everyone from the virus. Don’t scare – inform – as kids often get the wrong end of the stick regardless of their age.
Since many schools have unclear timelines for when they will reopen, it’s also important to reinforce that, in the grand scheme of things, even a few weeks off will one day be a “remember when” story and nothing more. Keep the long-term BIGGER picture
For older children worried about exams – be guided by the information from their school
Here are some ideas to help with school closures.
- Find creative ways to support kids during this uncertain and disruptive time.
- Break the day up and the week up. You don’t have to be a Butlin’s Red Coat, Mary Poppins or Professor Snape. Don’t have unrealistic expectations about home schooling, entertaining or being a Perfect Parent. But planning and thinking ahead about how this is going to work for your family short term to long term is a good idea.
- Create new routines – kids feel safe and secure with routines – getting up at a regular time, going to bed at the same time, keeping to the same bath time, getting some exercise at a chosen time makes it become a habit, eating healthy meals together at a regular time may be a wonderful new way to chat, have fun and connect to your kids. (Don’t always nag about eating the broccoli and using the knife a fork properly!)
- Wash hands regularly singing a song for fun to make the memory a positive one, not an anxious one. Try this one from my friend Action Amanda
- Play outside in the garden to let off steam, relax and get some regular fresh air.
- Be a Media Mentor – control the use of technology and screens!
- Have a film time – each day – how about letting your kids see old classics as well as educational content?
- Do experiments – go on a mini beast hunt & get out the binoculars.
- Play Board Games – check out my podcast with Ellie Dix an expert in all sorts of quick and easy, to longer more in depth games, here’s her website
- Discover a new hobby. Let your kids discover something that they are passionate about.
- Learn something new on TED Talks – listen to podcasts, download Audible
- Create a regular story time – read books and enjoy bonding with your kids over books, stories and poems– bring back the joy of being read to.
- Provide a mixture of places to spend time in to add variety to the day – quiet places where they can work throughout the day; perhaps at the kitchen table, lunchtime reading in the sitting room and afternoon play time in the garden.
- Find physical activities to get moving to on the TV – the BBC have released a swathe of ideas about keeping physically active.
- Use the time to widen your child’s world view and embrace diversity, for younger children why not watch JoJo & Gran Gran: as CBeebies has launched a cartoon celebrating black British family bonds that is delightful. Check it out at 5.30 every day on CBeebies
- Change YOUR mindset – don’t see your kids as a pain, a drag or a nuisance – look for ways to have fun. Discover more about each other and build POSITIVE MEMORIES that will last a lifetime.
- There are countless online resources to help — for any age & for any subject or interest. Check out these on Twitter @twinklresources @senresourceblog @kim_benham @EY_Matters
- Encourage your child to use breaks to catch up with a friend or an elderly relative using FaceTime or Skype to provide more personal social engagement with their friends and family but set some boundaries too!
- Be careful about how much time your child spends online, even if their school actively begins a computer-based learning programme. Reserve a little time every day for pleasure away from screens
- Set aside one time a day for a creative, child-led activities regardless of age – draw, paint, make, do, play a musical instrument, learn to sew, knit, cook. Check out @CBeebiesHQ @creationstation @twinklresources on Twitter and on their online websites.
- Every day should include outdoor time, to burn off your kid’s extra energy. Free play, climbing trees, building dens, making up games!
- Reach out to other parents to pool recipes, ideas, maths activities, history games, science experiments and suggestions about what’s working for them.
Homeschooling is like parenting. Some days will be amazing and you’ll be so grateful, other days you’ll wonder why you have to “endure” this.
Bear in mind that your kids may feel the same way too !
Some days you’ll thrive, and others you’ll simply survive. Whatever the case, don’t do it alone. Even if you’re quarantined and have to self isolate, you have the ability to call or text friends and family for support or take more advantage of FaceTime!
Here are some of my tips for juggling working at home with kids.
Get some ‘Me Time,’ ‘Our Time’ with your partner and find balance around ‘Our Time’ with the kids between educating them, keeping them busy and making meaningful memories that will last a lifetime.
I’d love to hear your stories, suggestions for others and ideas.