Many parents are asking, “How am I supposed to homeschool my child AND work from home? I am not a teacher!” This can feel overwhelming and impossible. You are not alone.
It is important to start small and plan no more than one or two activities for your child per day. Use items that you can easily find around the house- don’t reinvent the wheel. Here are some ways to set you and your child up for success:
Organize your space to promote independent play. Remove hazards, and offer a variety of “open-ended” materials that your child can use independently. Cardboard boxes keep children of all ages engaged for long periods of time because they can be used in so many different ways. Use couch cushions for climbing or to build a fort. Offer buckets, Tupperware containers, or reusable shopping bags for filling up/dumping or transporting objects. You may be surprised at how simple activities like this keep your child occupied while promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Give your child an assignment or a task to accomplish. For example, ask them to go into the backyard and collect 5 acorns, 3 pebbles, and 1 twig. For toddlers, keep the tasks very simple, such as filling up a bag with stuffed animals. Encourage them to check in with you when they are finished. Together you can count how many are in the bag. Praise them for completing the assignment with high 5’s. Not only does this promote your child’s independence, but it also brings them back to connect with you – an important motivating factor!
Set up a “workspace” for your child next to where you are working. Use materials such as legos, train sets, coloring/activity books, or even sorting socks. If you set it up as a “job” for your child, they will feel like their work is important, just like yours! To encourage this independence for longer chunks of time, use a timer. Try 10 minutes of independent “work” to start and adjust as needed.
Be sure to praise your child when they complete a task or are behaving the way you would like them to behave. You will get MORE of the behavior that you praise. For example, “You are being so helpful by matching those socks.” or “You worked so hard to collect all of those trucks!” Talking about each truck is great to promote language development, too.
Finally, make it a priority! Being in nature for a hike or playing outdoors reduces stress, and the exposure to sunlight and exercise helps to improve sleep therefore strengthening our immune systems. Find 20 minutes every day, even during a light rain shower, to be outside with your children. Stomp in the puddles together. Sing a song while you walk. Make some positive memories in the stressful time.
This is a challenging period for everyone, so be kind to yourself and to your child. The more practice your child gets being independent, the easier this will become.
No one can say how long we will be living in isolation. We don’t know if kids will be home from school for a month or if they will end up being home through the summer. What we do know is that children thrive on consistency. Consistent routines lead to more cooperation from kids. More cooperation from kids leads to more productivity for everyone.
To make this time easier for the whole family, create a new schedule and do your best to stick to it. Consider the following as you create a new family routine:
Communicate Your Plan Talk to your partner or other caregivers about how you want to create a new family routine while your kids are home from school. Discuss your individual needs and the needs of your children. Then hold a family meeting and communicate your plans with the kids. Let them know that you’re all in this together – you’re all adjusting to a new way of living for a while. Share what you would like your days to look like and ask if they have any thoughts or feelings they would like to share. Listen to their ideas and concerns.
Start Your Workday Early Get up at 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 am, pour a cup of coffee, and start your workday before the kids wake up. Try to get your most important work done first. You’ll be happy to have finished pressing tasks by the time your kids start their day.
Wake Kids at the Same Time Every Day Let kids sleep in until a set time (8:00 or 9:00 am). Consistency is essential for young children and maintaining a sleep schedule is important for everyone. Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, author of Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Bedtime Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, is offering a free, online class about best sleep practices for school-age children. To sign up for her class, click here and look for Be Your Child’s Sleep Coach: Help Your Child Become a Great Sleeper.
Set the Tone for the Day With young children, set a playful tone for the day by doing some pretend. Ask your child: “Who do you want to be today? Bobby Bear? Or Little Mouse? Who should I be today? Daddy Bear? Or Poppa Mouse?” After breakfast, take 2-5 minutes to do some yoga and stretching together. Praise your young child’s participation using their pretend character. These moments of mindfulness will help you refuel and can set the tone for a calm start of your schedule. We recommend this guided yoga activity for kids on Spotify: Kira Willey – Dance for the Sun.
Set Goals for the Day After breakfast, talk about what each person in the family hopes to get done today. You can include something for school/work and something fun – connecting with a friend, finishing a puzzle, reaching a certain level on a video game, etc. Write down the goals and see what got done at the end of the day. If all the goals weren’t met, discuss what will help kids meet their goals tomorrow.
Make Challenging Routines More Enjoyable If waking up is tough, make it more enjoyable by smiling and cuddling for a few minutes. While getting dressed or preparing breakfast, you might try incorporating a song that suits your child’s morning energy – it could be rousing or soothing. If brushing teeth is always a battle, try to make a game out of it.
Schedule in Connection & Fun We recommend spending 20 minutes of one-on-one time with kids every day to strengthen connection and decrease misbehavior. Some of children’s misbehaviors are bids for attention. If you fill your child’s “attention bank,” he will be less likely to beg for your attention later – and you will have an easier time sending him off to play alone while you get your work done. If you can’t do it every day, schedule one-on-one time whenever possible. In addition to family playtime, ask kids who they would like to play with or talk to this week. Then schedule virtual playdates and calls with relatives. Kids can play games like “Battleship” and “Guess Who” virtually if both parties have the game! Take advantage of the time that kids are entertained by someone else to get some of your own work done. Try to schedule connection and fun after chores and schoolwork as incentive to get those more challenging tasks done.
Encourage Independence Once kids understand how to do a routine with your guidance, they can master it and do more of it on their own. Lavish praise for what you liked. “I like that you put your socks on yourself!” Encouraging independence will take some pressure and responsibility off of you.
Anticipate Emotional Meltdowns Right now, many people are experiencing anxiety about the future as well as grief about all the things that will no longer happen this year. Your kids are no exception. Check in with them to ask how they feel about everything that’s happening right now and don’t be surprised if they burst into tears when you least expect it. Turn toward your kids’ emotional displays. Hold them, look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. These meltdowns may come at inconvenient times, but do your best to respond with gentleness and compassion.
Schedule Self-Care You have a lot on your plate and it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when worrying about your kids’ needs and your work to-do list. But if you’re caring for yourself, you’ll have more patience and energy for your work and family. Don’t feel guilty about scheduling a little me-time into your weeks – it will end up benefiting the whole family.
Remember, this is new territory for everyone. If you’re a month into isolation, you’re likely just beginning to establish a new “normal.” Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your family to have it all figured out. Take it day by day and expect there to be some difficult times.
You are usually so good at monitoring your child’s screen time. Maybe you practice Tech-Free Tuesday, or you limit video games to an hour, or you keep phones out of the bedrooms. But ever since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, you’re feeling like you’re losing the screen time battle.
Kids are now home from school, but still “going to school” online. That means they’re spending more time than usual in front of screens. On top of school, kids can only socialize virtually. And with the added free time, they are likely playing more video games and aimlessly scrolling through social media more than usual.
As a parent, you may be concerned about the effects of all this screen time on your kids. Take a deep breath. We’re here to help you create new screen time rules to get you through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think Screen Usage, Not Screen Time For a long time, we’ve been talking about the effects of screen time on our kids. But the reality is that not all screen time is equal. Time spent doing schoolwork online or connecting with family virtually is more valuable than time spent watching certain TV shows or playing certain video games. Brainstorm all your family’s screen uses – consider including your partner or other adults involved in parenting. Make a big list. Then, take a look at the list and choose the things you think are necessary and/or valuable – like school, work, and FaceTiming grandparents. These things do not need to be limited, though you may decide they only happen at certain times of the day. Identify uses that you do want to limit as well – like social media or television.
Invite Kids into the Conversation Hold a family meeting and bring your list of screen uses. Assure kids that your main priority right now it to keep your family mentally and physically healthy. Let them know that you think it’s important for everyone to get outside, exercise, and do other activities without screens every day. Tell them that you understand the importance of connecting with friends and family virtually, and that you want to work together to come up with a plan to manage screen usage. Share your list and ask if you’ve missed anything. Then, ask which activities they want to be allowed to use their devices for regularly and how much time they want for these activities. After hearing everyone’s opinions, make a plan together. Write out a weekly schedule if your family doesn’t already have one. Include school, work, family meals, exercise and play. Then identify times in the day when family members have free time to use their devices in any way they choose. Try to agree on this plan together. If you can’t come to an agreement, parents get to decide. Try your plan for a week and then reevaluate.
Refrain from Criticism Try to stay positive and curious. By asking about games and apps kids use, you will learn more about their interests and they will feel understood by you. Refrain from criticizing your family members’ screen uses. Do your best to avoid language like, “I hate that game you play,” “Those videos you watch on TikTok are all stupid,” and “We didn’t have cell phones when I was a kid and I turned out fine – you’re lucky I let you use one at all.” Even if you’re thinking those things, try not to say them. Those comments probably won’t increase cooperation or connection.
Think about Video Games Differently Many parents get into arguments with their kids when asking them to turn off video games. Kids don’t want to stop playing because they’re in the middle of something. But parents want their kids to transition to the next task. Rather than putting a time limit on video games, consider asking your child what their goal is for the day. Explain that they are allowed to meet that goal and then they have to stop playing until tomorrow. It’s also a good idea to ask kids to explain how to play the game, what they like about it and what’s challenging. If you don’t know much about video games, let your child teach you something. This will strengthen your relationship and you’ll be able to tell when your child has reached their goal. Praise kids for stopping when they said they would. You may want to think about when you are allowing kids to play video games as well. If they’re playing right before dinner, you may be yelling and nagging to get them off the game and over to the table. And if they get to play right before doing chores, it may be nearly impossible to get them to transition. Try to schedule gaming time after a less enjoyable task, like doing chores. And if you move into asking kids to set goals for their game time, you’ll have to be flexible with the start time of the next activity.
Allow for Exceptions to the Rules Maybe you don’t want your kids watching TV for hours on end, but you have an important meeting today and it seems like the only way to keep kids from disrupting your work. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and you probably can’t ask a babysitter to come over. Let the kids watch a little extra TV if it’s the only way to get your work done. Maybe your kids usually have limited video game time, but it’s now the only way for them to talk to their friends. There is value in socializing and working together to accomplish a goal virtually. More video game time than usual is okay right now. When life gets back to normal, remind kids of the importance of socializing in person. Be gentle and realistic with yourself and your family. This is new territory for everyone, and tensions are already high without added arguments about screens. You may not like how often your kids are on screens – remember that this will not last forever. You can remind kids of that too. You’re allowing them to use their devices more than usual, but the old rules will be back when we’re out of quarantine.
Set aside enough time for sleep. When you create your quarantine routine, be sure to schedule enough time for sleep. Then spend that time in bed. Here are sleep recommendations by age group.
3 – 5 years old: 10 – 13 hours 5 – 12 years old: 9 – 12 hours Tweens and Teens: 8 – 10 hours Adults: 7 – 9 hours
Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. This could mean soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music. Begin an hour or more before the time you want to fall asleep
Create a sleep-conducive environment. Try to make the environment: dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. When it’s time for a new mattress, it is worth the investment. A restful night’s sleep will lead to happier, more cooperative family members.
Keep sleep stealers out of the bedroom. Bedrooms should only be used for sleep (and sex, for adults). Try to keep phones and electronics out of bedrooms. Avoid watching TV, using a computer, or even reading in bed.
Don’t eat before bed. Try to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. The 2-3 hour rule applies to food, as well as caffeine and alcohol.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is important right now for a variety of reasons – one of which is that it will help you and your family sleep better.
Become your child’s sleep coach. We also recommend reading Dr. Schneeberg’s book: Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Sleep Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, Ages 3-10.
Our current health crisis creates daily challenges that many of us have never experienced. Our children can’t easily spend time with their friends. We can’t just stop in at the local pizza place to chill out on a Friday evening. Our daily schedules are both gone and more complicated at the same time. We are facing the challenge of inventing new ways of doing things many times each day. How is your family handling the challenge of creating new ways of coping and thriving? How are you doing at authentically tuning into your own needs and modeling wellness for your kids?
Participants in this class will be able to:
Recognize the importance of slowing down and changing expectations
Identify family meeting strategies that suit your family and increase collaboration and cooperation
Apply approaches that help siblings tolerate each other with kindness
Apply communication and parenting approaches that focus on optimism, resilience and connection to effectively navigate the new normal as a family.
(WTNH)– School looked different Monday as kids around the state set-up work stations in their own homes.
Charlotte Smith has five kids, ranging in age from 4 to 10. Their schools started “distance learning” due to the coronavirus update last week.
“Mom, Cruise Director, has a spread sheet about what subjects the kids have to do,” says Smith, a blogger in Southport, who encourages the kids to start the day with an active lesson like writing sentences instead of watching videos.