This time in our country is unprecedented with the onset of the pandemic COVID-19. Never before have families been told to work at home, stay home, and to avoid social gatherings. In addition, it is very likely in the near future in New Zealand that our children will need to stay home from school as many other countries across the world are doing. Due to these parents can be at all loss as to what to do with their children.
This time, though insecure, is a fantastic opportunity to begin to connect to our children in a deeper way. Many parents have felt exhausted from the pace of life, acknowledging that we get little time with families and loved ones and that the years seem to be charging ahead full speed. Now is the time that we can have the opportunity to engage with our children and partners and invest into them.
In our modern society we have adapted to ‘outsourced parenting.’ Schools, programmes, classes, and before and after school care have largely been responsible for raising our children due to financial and other pressures. I am not saying we need to push our children to learn. However the COVID-19 pandemic, though tragic, gives us a unique opportunity to spend time with our children and teach them the things that may have long been neglected. Our grandparents and great-grandparents found a way to live through desperate times, and we can now use our concern with survival to teach our children how to survive without the luxuries of modern life – if needed.
Looking at it positively
I am passionate about teaching my children to cook. You can find more about my life here. From a young age, still in nappies they were seated on the kitchen bench learning about their senses and the processes of cooking. Yes, they made a huge mess, but they were involved every step of the way, and learnt so much from it. Now is the time where we can teach them – and ourselves if necessary – how to cook. Not to just open packets and put together, but to really cook from scratch. We can teach our children processes such as pickling, and preserving, batch cooking and freezing, growing our own food, understanding nutritional content, and recycling much of what we are used to throwing away. We can be involved in art projects, science experiments and enjoying the solitude of a good book. If we see our isolation as a time to slow down, a time to connect with family and a time to experiment with something new, then a world of possibilities can open for us.
The honest reality is that home isolation will involve a period of adjustment where all the members of the household need to learn to cooperate for long periods of time. We are not used to being together 24 hours a day and this will bring a measure of stress. Yet, even this offers opportunities for a deeper connection with one another and a chance to work on our conflict resolution skills and ability to compromise.
Many of the trait’s experts are saying our children need to develop can flourish in this time. Development in resilience, in self-directed intrinsic learning, in deep attachment with other people, and in social competence. Learning new and practical every-day skills that schools often take on such as food technology, garden to table eating, and sustainability projects can be experienced at home. Even simple life skills such as putting a load of washing on can teach children self-sufficiency and independence. Children are never too young to learn the tasks that will help them thrive in life, but this needs to be done in age appropriate ways.
So, what do we do?
Parents can use this time to really get to know their child’s deep interests and then build their learning experiences around this. It is the support of the parent through this process that enhances the child’s learning. Children should do the work the school sets, but parents can make use of other time for random questions, quirky interests and creative projects.
Parents needs to be equipped with the knowledge they need so that they can connect with their families on a deeper level, supporting holistic development and inspiring learning. When children learn in the context of a safe and connected relationship their learning is maximized both through emotional connection, and a sub conscious understanding that their space is safe for success and failure.
For children with specific learning difficulties, and special educational needs this is a time where your child can thrive. By being at home their sensory stimulus is reduced and you have an opportunity to work one on one with them in the areas of most need. I encourage parents of these children to use movement as much as possible to help train correct neural pathways and to gradually work on any presenting sensory issues. In addition, don’t forget to give time and care to yourself and ensure you have the support you need.
Here are some ways that all families can make the most of this time
Organize your days – set loose routines so that you still wake up with a purpose and a plan. Simple things such as learning time in the morning, followed by a lunch that your child makes, followed by some quiet time and chores, then fun afternoon games can make the days feel full and satisfying.
Find stimulating material – the online world is still active so discover a new hobby or find a new learning experience online as a family and complete that together. Play boardgames or write your own play.
Think holistic development – take care of your families mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health in this time. Take notice of what their thoughts are and have conversations around positive mindsets and hopefulness. Discuss their feelings and fears and develop a greater sense of trust.
Keep moving – find ways to be active such as family twister games, pilates, yoga or friendly boxing sessions together. The brain benefits when the body moves so do this as much as possible. You can take the time to start participating in the natural childhood movement.
Avoid devices for long periods – to benefit their body and help keep them emotionally regulated and healthy.
We need to remember the societal impacts of COVID-19 won’t be forever, but while it is here, we can have some fun, connect deeper, maximize our time and release our children’s fullest potential.