By Elden Hodges
Parenting is tough! If you’re like me as a parent, you are fed up with COVID and the impact it is having on our daily lives. For many of us, educational progress risks being significantly stymied as a result. But, don’t despair. Allow me to share with you some strategies my wife and I used with our two kids to remain sane, and emerge from this in a better position.
Nurture Mental Health
At the risk of sounding trite, the most important factor about our kids is good health. Without it, nothing else matters. So, of course, do what you can to ensure everyone is safe, and secure physically. The same holds true for mental health – which people often overlook. How your kids manage emotionally during COVID directly translates into the kind of effort they will give in their studies.
According to a recent Gallup survey, approximately 30% of parents describe their kids as experiencing harm due to social distancing and closures (Wellbeing, Calderon, 6/16/20 https://news.gallup.com/poll/312605/parents-say-covid-harming-child-mental-health.aspx). This suggests the longer we must stay inside, the worse the potential impact is on our kids. So, what to do. Well, start by knowing your kids; and get them out to do what it is they enjoy. Be creative. This does not mean having to spend lots of money. What’s most important is you find a way (a safe way) to change the routine. Do things with your kids that take them out of this COVID universe that forces them to live in a virtual silo.
- Go on Long Drives – My wife and I have two kids: both teenagers. On weekends, we rent SUVs so as to put enough space in between them, and take long drives. This has proven a godsend. We leave the destination up to the kids. COVID has limited no so much where we go, but what we do when we get there; and where we stop
- Corny Movie Nights – We were pleasantly surprised when one Friday evening, we found a movie from the 80s that my kids absolutely loved. It was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was a on a limb that we tried it out. Since that time, we’ve made it part of our family schedule without making into a ritual. Roughly every other Friday or Saturday night, we all gather to watch something just to get away and let loose. I make popcorn (no, not the microwave stuff); and my kids love it.
- Encourage Select Friend/PODS – Early during lockdown, our son was getting itchy, and wanted to attend a birthday party his friend was having. The party was held at the kids’ home, with no more (it was initially promised) than 4 or 5 other kids. The only adults present would be the homeowners. Of course, we made sure that our son took wore the appropriate PPE; made sure to maintain 6 feet apart from everyone. In actuality, the party turned out to be a little below a super-spreader event; and our son left early. Soon after he arrived, he quickly realized that few of his friends were wearing masks; the parents had invited other people over – people who were not previously informed of. I say that to make the point that you must be careful about who your friends deal with. If possible, and safe, I recommend working with your child to form a a small POD of 2 or 3 friends with whom to organize periodic meetings at public squares, parks, practically anywhere outdoors and in the open as a means to keep them connected.
Give them Space/Set a Schedule
We need to be thoughtful of the sensory overload and social demands that “everyone at home” creates. The house tends to be noisy with activities, and more people than usual are around at once. The casual “let’s watch a movie” may seem relaxing and not stressful, but the expectation of spontaneity and togetherness can be overwhelming. It’s a time when even children who are comfortable with family time may need alone time to decompress, perhaps using noise-canceling headphones, sensory tools, or whatever works for them (https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-kids-on-covid-19/)
Creating a schedule with your kids established as sense a normalcy. Being locked down creates an artificial jail, that without a routine, makes anyone feel claustrophic quickly. Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time. Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions. List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.
- Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.
- Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.
- Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.
Provide SMART Resources
Online educational tutoring is terrific way to give your kids the support they need to manage their school workload. With most schools only recently moving to a virtual or hybrid platform, their delivery of educational services is still evolving. This leave many parents frustrated, because their kids are not learning at the level they should; the teacher may not be as able to give them the kind of attention they need. Consider kids with special needs, and then the challenge is greatly exacerbated. Such students often require more intense, one-one interaction that is difficult to replicate via an online experience.
Despite running an online tutoring firm (TutorCoachPool), I linked my daughter with an Algebra tutor. This saves me from being the bad father, and needing to navigate an incessant number of arguments and tears from my child who thinks I am being mean. This also allows me time to do my day-job.