One of the challenges that all parents are facing during the stay-at-home order due to the Covid-19 pandemic is that school, work, and home are now all in the same location. Your home is a resource for all your family’s needs. Think about what changes you may be able to make during these trying days, to have your space work for everyone.
Start by looking at your physical space. For example, do you have a designated area for each family member to do their work? Consider setting up a “school zone” during the day for your children. A simple idea may be to use a table with a cardboard divider to form a workstation for each child. Your children can use their creativity to decorate their workstations, engaging them more fully in the process. By creating separate areas for each child, even at a shared space like a table, you are helping to create structure and boundaries which are important during a time when we can all feel on top of each other. Even young children will be able to understand that when workstations go up, time for school has begun. If each child has their own room to use for studying, creating a physical sign, such as “school in session” to hang on their doors helps children to focus their attention and stay on schedule.
When creating schedules for study time, be sure to incorporate online time for each family member based on the availability of technology in your home. Many schools and businesses are using technology now more than ever to stay connected. Create a family flow chart if turns are needed at a computer. Be sure to monitor when your children are online, to ensure they are engaging in schoolwork during study time. Individual devices such as phones and tablets should be put away when not being used for class lessons, much as if your child were physically in school. Designate screen time based on lessons offered by your school, as well as work meetings you need to attend. Lead by example, adding both parent and child screen times on the family flow chart.
Setting school and work hours for your household can also be helpful in maintaining focus and order. Decide at what time school begins and ends each day. Schedule lunch as a time when everyone can connect during the day and remember to work in physical activity to release energy that can interfere with focus. As possible, go outside for some exercise and sunshine to help lift your mood. When the school day is done, put away “school zones” and bring your family back to “home zone”. Dinner together as a family can be a great time to share something that each person learned during the day, encouraging enthusiasm for learning. Dinner can also be a good time to support each other, sharing our feelings of missing peers, social outings, and our worries about how long this situation will last. Be mindful that pre-teens and teenagers can be particularly moody, as developmentally their peer group is of growing importance as they mature towards independence. Your children are also facing the possibility of missing out on class trips and graduations, and they do not yet have the perspective of life experience to process these disappointments. As parents, you need to encourage your children to verbalize what they are feeling without judgment. Leading by example and saying that you are also feeling happy, sad, frustrated will encourage your children to open up easier.
A few final suggestions to help both parents and students. Social distancing should not lead to social isolation. Take advantage of all the ways available to stay connected. Reach out to other parents to share ideas. Stay in touch with your child’s school to see what resources are available, and to ask for any needed help. Help your children stay connected with their peers; older children usually do not need encouragement in this area, but younger children may need assistance to have a virtual play date. Monitor all your children, looking for signs of stress and depression, which can look like anger, isolation, or apathy in a child. Reach out to your school, your doctor, or to other professionals, if needed. Please remember that many therapists, including Mobile Therapy Centers, offer free consultations and telehealth services. Finally, remember yourself. Find time to relax and to engage in quiet times and hobbies that you enjoy. Revise expectations to fit current needs – adapt, survive, thrive. Be well.
This article was written by Carol Morrone, Manager of Educational Services & Development for Mobile Therapy Centers