For those of us in a state of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, never before has the world seemed more complicated, yet daily lives more simplified. Our sense of control and stability has been ripped away from us, and we are now required to steer in this tumultuous landscape when the wheel is no longer in our hands. When we feel disempowered like this, it’s foreseeable that existing cracks within relationships become more apparent and couples struggle to find common ground, with one chief issue being: the managing of the kids.
So school is out and you are now asked to assume the role of teacher, this comes over- and- above all the other roles you have to perform. No easy feat! With these challenges and the realities of our new existence, I provide some thoughts and suggestions on the matter. This is a time for reflection and growth, and one hopes for the potential of positive change and the development of new skills once this situation is behind us.
Firstly, drop the perfectionism, this is far from an ideal situation so our objectives need to be realistic. Aim to provide a safe, nurturing environment conducive for learning. Bear in mind that regardless of the situation, you are and have always been the primary educator of your child or children. Remember this when speaking to your child, reprimanding your child and modelling behaviour for your child to follow.
Secondly, to ease their fears and anxiety, create structure and routine to each day, allocating times for learning, exercise and play. Make a clear differentiation between weekdays and weekends, adhering to mealtimes (eat at a dining room table together), bedtimes and other daily routines. By sticking to these typical routines, some familiarity and normality is instilled in the home. Importantly, limit sharing anxiety provoking information regarding the Coronavirus with your children, only providing information that is age appropriate and accompanied with the reassurance that this situation will pass.
Thirdly, use this time to work on neglected areas, for example curl up on the sofa and do paired reading with your children, or create fun ways to learn times tables. Take walks with your children, garden with your children, bake/cook with your children, dance with your children, but most importantly talk with your children! Take this opportunity to teach your children life skills not usually taught in the classroom.
Fourthly, get the kids to do unpaid chores. If you are not charging for your services at home, why should they? Bear in mind that your aim is to shape an individual that is kind, responsible and empathic so ensure that you are giving them opportunities to learn these values.
Fifthly, although the situation may allow for slight flexibility, ensure that screen and online time is well managed and remove this privilege if schoolwork and chores are not performed. It’s important that your children learn to self-regulate and establish a balanced approach to work and play. Guide and direct them through this process.
Lastly, this is the time to work on the relationship with your children and address any behavioural or emotional issues you previously never had the opportunity to deal with. Each developmental stage brings its own challenges, and we as parents have to respond and assist our children to work through these stages. If necessary, seek the online help of a professional, but the time is now. Spend at least fifteen minutes daily playing with your children and remain firm on the areas of respect and the importance of establishing a good self-directed work ethic, this will not only create a calm home but also sound skills and values for their future.