Globally, students in coronavirus-stricken countries everywhere now go to school at home. Social media has been filled with memes and tales of bewildered parents navigating home-based learning, work from home arrangements and the disruption lockdowns (or in our case, circuit breaker measures) have had on everyone's schedule.
We are living in some unique and challenging times and while we would have read about COVID-19 since January, this month is when it crash-landed into our own personal worlds.
As parents, we are now all Stay At Home Mums and Dads. We are also tutors, discipline masters and mistresses, cafeteria staff, cleaners and play mates.
Here are some ways to help us keep going.
Home-based learning, not homeschooling
Many are now claiming that “everyone is a homeschooler.” But homeschooling and home-based learning are quite different. Home-based learning has been adopted as a mode of survival, and not a conscious choice. Perhaps, as parents experience home-based learning, some may discover homeschooling as a probable path for the future.
One way of taking the stress off yourself is to acknowledge this difference – your kids are not homeschooling, they are learning from home. So as you look at the glut of activities and resources online, just choose what you like to do and don’t stress over what you can’t.
Remember – most parents with homeschoolers plan their kids’ education with a holistic approach. There’s sit-down work to do and learning is achieved in the day’s activities. During home-based learning, your children are expected to be engaged with school work for a fixed number of hours, although some children may finish their work faster than others.
If they are already occupied for half the day, it’s unrealistic to try and cram in more activities. After their “school” hours, allow them to take a breather; it’s okay to not fill up all their time!
Homework... ‘cause all work is now at home
Having now to tutor your child and help them with homework can be disorienting to say the least. Keep in touch with their school teachers, especially if your child is Primary 3 and under, as they tend not to remember details about homework.
Some children may find it a challenge to navigate the online platforms and need more time to complete their work. Every child is different so adjust your expectations based on your child’s pace and ability. If your child is not coping well with the demands and expectations, do have a chat with the teacher.
Bear in mind that with everyone is learning from home, if you can help your children plan their time well and stay engaged, that’s already a job well done!
With older kids, check in with them regularly on how they are doing and make sure you show them that you’re on their side. Don’t come in fault-finding or assuming they are not putting in effort. Develop your empathetic voice as a parent who’s also a friend.
If they have close friends at school, you can encourage them to form an online support group where they can learn together and have an open avenue for questions and clarifications.
Be kind to each other – allow flexibility
It’s helpful to have a rough schedule for the day so there is a sense of routine and everyone knows what to expect. However, be conscious that everyone is trying to cope with the pandemic and changes to our lives can get any of us down sometime. So be gracious to allow flexibility to the schedule.
Remember that empathy and love in action can go a long way. If your children are struggling, filling their love tanks will help them feel understood and more able to face this season.
With enrichment classes, discuss with your spouse on what is realistic. Will your 7-year-old want to keep up with ballet on top of home-based learning or can she have scheduled times at home when she will practise on her own?
If you try to replicate “normal life” at home, it will only add stress.
Be kind to your spouse and kids, and be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you lose your temper, apologise and reconcile. It’s okay if you are not crossing off all the items on your to-do list, there’s still tomorrow to finish them. It’s okay if you don’t feel like you are doing well, please reach out to ask for help.
When you can, let your children take part in crafting how the week would look like. What’s a nice weekend activity they would like to do? What are some nice meals you could cook together? What’s their favourite item to receive via food delivery? How can you all make this time more fun? You will be surprised at the ideas your kids may have!
You may find yourself in need of dire help around the house. Enlist their help. Pick a few daily chores and let them choose which one they wish to own.
For older kids, you can even get them to be in charge of one meal a week! List down the many things to do to run a household and let them think about how they could help.
If you are setting limits on screen time or programme choices, let them tell you what they think is reasonable and preferred. Make sure you are listening to them and that they recognise that you are before agreeing to a middle ground that works.
For young kids, you may need to offer choices daily e.g., Elijah, Mommy needs help! Do you want to wipe the table or vacuum the floor? If you repeat the same options every day, they will soon pick up on the idea that that’s their job.
Quality time, and quantity time
We may all be at home but it’s easy to fall into a rhythm that doesn’t actually help us stay connected or grow closer. If we are all in survival mode, we will find ourselves busy and alone through this entire time because we are not stopping to look up and around us.
Plan intentional time in the day to actually be together. You can have unscheduled time every day at a certain hour, or make the half hour before bedtime the time to relax and chat about the day.
We all also need outdoor time, even if it’s a short walk around the neighbourhood. You could plan for an evening walk every other day so that everyone gets some exercise plus a chance for quality time.
While time can seem ridiculously slow, yet insufficient simultaneously as you work at home and your kids do home-based learning, make time for your family.
They are one of your biggest reasons to #stayhome and one of your biggest rewards.
You can either be busy the entire day rushing to finish work, juggling all the hats you wear, and then go to bed exhausted and demoralised, or you can go through your day, put some things on pause to have good connection and quality time, and then pick up on work two hours after the kids are asleep. You may find the second scenario to be more refreshing and rewarding.
Don't look back
We all have wistful moments thinking how easy life was just a while ago. As we scroll through memories on social media, we may even find ourselves thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t too long ago. How much things have changed!”
That sentiment is understandable and reasonable but one huge key to navigating this season well is to be present. And we can’t be that if we keep looking back.
Current affairs are changing so fast and no one really knows how things will look like at the end of Circuit Breaker and beyond.
So don’t get caught up with the thought of resuming life as it used to be. Instead, be present now. Be consoled and console your kids that one day, this will be over but for now, enjoy today’s moments as much as you can. Embrace your family repeatedly. Connect with them daily. Learn to laugh and cry together. And as you do family well, you will redeem this difficult time and your family will grow stronger and closer.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Every family will navigate the challenges of WFH and HBL differently. Read about the three goals Angela Yam, an educator and mum of a toddler, suggests for families who need to adjust to the new norm here.
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