The COVD-19 pandemic has thrust many families all around the world to adjust to schools and business closures to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus. Many caregivers found themselves with increased demands to meet their children’s academic and social needs. Conversely, many kids were left without a much needed social outlet when families were made to go long periods of social distancing.
Obviously, this can lead to increased stress and pressure on many caregivers to fulfill the role of teacher, chef, social activities coordinator and parent. However, having a plan in place can help facilitate not only a smoother day for children and parents/caregivers, but an interactive, fun day.
First, it is important to note that for many children, when schools closed due to the Coronavirus, social interactions with their friends (possibly what they did like about school) was taken away. Having a structured schedule when school starts again in a few weeks can help support a sense of safety, structure, and reassurance. For both parent and child, having a plan in place can also help alleviate some anxiety with an ever-evolving situation with the pandemic and school closures. Here are some strategies you can do to make the most of your child’s online learning.
- Create a schedule together.
Every home has their own unique daily rituals and routines centered around possible mealtimes and parents’ work schedules. Additionally, many children have subjects that are preferred and some not so much. Work together to build out a schedule that allows for school requirements for logging in, but some freedom and flexibility for when to do other activities. What is important is that they are completed, not the actual time. You know your child better than anyone. If Math for your child is not their strongest subject, perhaps putting it first may work. Or perhaps putting it after preferred subjects can help boost their confidence for the day and gets them going on the right foot. There is no right or wrong, just personalized structure for your child.
- Do not budge on “must” complete school activities but allow for some flexibility.
Regardless of how you structure your child’s school activities and learning, resist the urge though to start their day with device use for an indeterminate amount of time. This can possibly create a scenario where it will be a daily challenge to peel them off their screen time and potential for power struggles. “Get off the device because I said so, it’s time for school!” is not a desirable way to engage every day for either parent or child. Hold firm on assignments or activities that must be completed but interject fun activities or “free time” for children to choose to do what they want. An effective strategy that can help with following some structure is what we call the Premack principle, also known as “Grandma’s Law”. It is essentially a “first, then” strategy: If you want dessert, you have to eat your dinner. It’s that simple, but consistency is key.
Also, phrasing things can be impactful. Rather than saying, “You won’t get your device if you don’t do your homework”, you could say instead “You’ll get screen time after we complete your homework”. The first statement focuses on what children will lose, versus the second statement that focuses on the positives when we complete our activities.
- Utilize the internet for good.
There are now countless online resources to help parents support their child’s online learning. There are some that even make customized “kits” for homeschooling and websites that encourage fun learning for subjects that helps kids stay on top of their academic success. Tutors can be highly effective but can get costly. There are now several websites that are offering free trials to check out the right fit for your child. Although a child’s new school “environment” may be home, that does not mean you have to consider yourself their teacher. Think of yourself as a success coach. There are numerous resources online that can help support what they are learning in their schools. Especially useful if you are a parent like me that has forgotten how to do some more advanced math some kids are learning now! Here is a list of some of the websites we would recommend (we do not have any affiliation to the following – we just like em!):
ABC Mouse: https://www.abcmouse.com
ABCYA – https://www.abcya.com/
Brain Pop: https://www.brainpop.com/
Learning A-Z: https://www.learninga-z.com
Kids Discover: https://online.kidsdiscover.com/
Highlights Kids: https://www.highlightskids.com/
National Geographic for Kids: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
PBS Learning Media: https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/
Scholastic Learn at Home: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/
Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/
Phonics Hero: https://www.phonicshero.com/
Boom Learning: https://wow.boomlearning.com/
Time for Kids: https://www.timeforkids.com/
Raz Kids: https://www.raz-kids.com/
Adventure Academy: https://www.adventureacademy.com/
Go Noodle: https://www.gonoodle.com/
Switcheroo Zoo: https://www.switchzoo.com/
Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/
(We LOVE this one – it’s a great website with worksheets/activities/resources created by educators and is a wonderful marketplace that also supports them!)
- Lastly, practice self-care for yourself and encourage your child to do similar.
Daily routines have dramatically changed for many families and it is understandable given the pandemic to experience some level of anxiety, depression, restlessness, and uncertainty. Taking walks outside, watching movies together at night, or even taking up new hobbies like gardening (even apartments can support small container plants) can be a rewarding experience that you can do with your child to make the most of additional time at home. Be kind to yourself and remember that it is a challenging time for everyone. Having structure and plans in place that allows for fun and flexibility can add much needed stability during uncertain times.
Written by Siriporn Cerber, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW, BCBA