Tips on the challenges related to your children suddenly “going to school” in your kitchen

Boom!!  Just like that many of us have become in-home teachers.  For those of us parents who lived through 9/11, we know how quickly and unexpectedly life can change.  We were unsure about the future then and how long it would take for life to return to “normal.”  Now, almost nineteen years later we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Schools are shut down as well as many businesses.  School districts are doing their best to provide online education but we all recognize the increased demand this is putting on parents; many of whom are also trying to complete their work at home.  Let’s be honest-not everyone was born to be an educator.  For those parents who are thrust into this new role without warning, completely out of their comfort zone, the struggle is real.  I have spent decades working with students with attention, organization and interpersonal communication challenges related to concussion, ADD/ADHD, and other learning difficulties. These students are especially vulnerable in the current situation.  Their routines are changed, the usual prompts and cues may be non-existent, and they are being asked to focus at home in the presence of the many distractions like their siblings, pets, video games and other toys.  They are receiving online education which may be more difficult to comprehend and they may have more questions than answers.  They can’t spend time with their friends.  These truly are challenging times.  Here are some suggestions to get you through these next few weeks or months.

  1. Don’t judge. This is a new experience for everyone; there is no playbook to follow.  Trial and error will be necessary.  What works with one child is not necessarily going to work with another.  Be flexible and be patient with yourself and your children.
  2. Create a daily schedule. School has a routine and the children will do better if a consistent schedule is in place. Try to have it mirror their in-school schedule so if Math is the first subject, start with that. Include a snack time, lunch time and recess time. Everyone can benefit from time outside; even us parents.
  3. If you have younger children, have them create a clock with colored time slots for each of their subjects as well as breaks. This will help them with knowing what task they should be focused on throughout the day.
  4. Timers are great tools. If your child has difficulty working independently, you can set a timer and let them know that when the timer goes off, they get a break. You can also set the timer as reminder for your child to start or return to work.
  5. Set up a consistent space in the house that will become “the classroom.” You will want to keep distractions to a minimum so if you have a room without a TV, that may be a good option.
  6. Check their progress to determine if they are able to complete the work in the given time frame. Some children may require additional time to complete certain assignments and you want to allow for that in the schedule.
  7. Have your child take out only one subject of information at a time. Having too many books and papers spread out can lead to confusion and frustration.
  8. Watch for increased signs of stress in your child. This is a change for everyone and some children may have a more difficult time than others; especially if they experience difficulty managing the technology and/or miss seeing their friends.
  9. Treat this experience as a new adventure! Get outside and take breaks with your child, cook a new recipe or play a new game. Make the most of the unexpected time you will be sharing!
  10. Keep your child socially active with friends via facetime, zoom, etc. Social isolation can lead to emotional challenges over time and want to prevent that as much as possible.
  11. Watch for changes over time. For some students, they will adapt to the new routine over time and for others the longer their routine is interrupted, the more frustrated and anxious they will become.  Consult professionals as needed if you become concerned about changes in your child’s behavior.
  12. Utilize the many free sources that have become available. There are virtual tours of Yellowstone Park, the Louvre, and the British Museum to name a few.  The San Diego Zoo has a website for kids and there are online History classes for pre-teens through adults at the “bighistoryproject.com.”  Now is a great time to learn something new about a topic of interest to you and your child.  Share that knowledge with others to maintain social interaction via facetime/zoom/skype, etc.
  13. Engage in stress relieving activities. Tai Chi, yoga, meditation can be done as a family.  Creating healthy new habits at this time can bring about a lifetime of improved health for the entire family.
  14. Create weekly meal plans that emphasize good nutritional choices and make meal prep fun. Set the table with fancy dishes or decorations.  If you have younger children, have then design different placements for each day of the week.
  15. Perform safe, daily exercise. Physical exercise is important for good physical, emotional and cognitive health.
  16. Go outside in a natural environment, practicing social distancing. Being in nature for only 5 minutes can increase feelings of calm and decrease depression, anxiety and fear.  We can all use some of that right now.
  17. Stay hydrated and watch sugar intake. Sheltering at home can be a nightmare as you attempt to limit sugary drinks and snacks.
  18. Keep regular sleep habits in place. Lack of sleep reduces our natural immune systems and we are heavily reliant on that at this time.

Like all challenging times, this one will come to an end and our lives will resume.  Before we know it, we will be trying to manage those overloaded schedules with not enough time in the day.  That will involve another adjustment period for children, especially for those with Executive Functioning difficulties, ADD/ADHD, and other learning difficulties.  Let’s do what we can to help one another until we hear the All Clear. If you think your child is struggling and you would like to chat directly with me, please give me a call.

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641 Valley Road
Brielle, NJ 08730

doreen@thecognitivecoach.net
(732) 977-7381

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