John Oates, Professor of Developmental Psychology at The Open University, writes about how to cope with children being at home during this period of self-isolation, with advice and helpful suggestions on supporting them through this difficult and confusing time.
It probably came as a shock hearing that schools will be closing, on top of all the other lifestyle changes and worries that coronavirus has brought to us; but this does bring with it some positives, even though they may be hard to see just now.
Words go a long way
Firstly, it’s important to be open with your children about what is happening. The British Psychological Society (BPS) advises giving ‘them factual information, but adjust the amount of detail to fit their age’. Reiterate that you’re all in this together, including your children to bring your family closer. It’s a serious time and you will understandably be feeling anxious, but your children need to feel your security, and although you may have concerns, you must show your children that you’re capable of supporting and protecting them. Bright Horizons also provides some valuable points on talking to your children about Covid-19.
Adapting to homeschooling
Many parents are entering a new and unknown world of homeschooling, which can be challenging and rewarding in equal measures. BPS again provides some useful guidance depending on your child’s age, with structure and routine being paramount. However, it’s also vital to maintain friendships, play and fun as a way of minimising stress.
Keep connected to your school, as they may well provide learning materials that would be well suited to your child. But, why not also try exploring some of the excellent free content that’s available online. Happiness is Homemade provides some great craft ideas for younger children, and the OU’s free online learning platform, OpenLearn has over 950 free courses for adults and teenagers aged 13+.
Although it’s right to be concerned about your children’s screen-time, tablets and computers can be useful, especially if used sensibly as an educational resource and form of entertainment. Some local libraries have partnered with a digital platform, Hoopla, which allows access to eBooks, audiobooks, comics, music, movies and TV, with a valid library card. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a good book with your child.
Keep active and on the go
We know how important it is to take breaks from work to exercise, especially with children’s boundless energy. As well as keeping physically fit, which is going to help us all to fight infection if we have to, exercise is a great way to combat anxiety. Joe Wicks’ daily P.E workouts have proven a massive hit this week; take inspiration from some of the exercises and make up your own routines with your children.
We may have eased our children’s lives by helping them to be relatively carefree, but now is a time when you can introduce more responsibility. Share household tasks to help your child feel more involved; as well as contributing to them staying active, it may also teach them some new skills. If you match tasks to their abilities, you may be surprised at what they are prepared to do and enjoy. It’s important to remember that praise is most effective when given for effort, rather than achievement.
Strengthen your bond
Spending more time with your children can be stressful, but try to see it as an opportunity to strengthen your bonds. The three simple ways you can strengthen attachments are:
- Be sensitive to your child’s thoughts and feelings; give them time and space to express themselves to you. Don’t be judgemental, show that you are listening and understanding
- Allow them to express negative feelings as well as positive ones; show them that you can hold troubled feelings without having to push them away. And make sure that your behaviour towards them is predominantly positive
- Don’t expect them to necessarily think and feel in the same way as you do, be curious about their minds and how they work
Above all, try to have fun together!
Find out more
To find out more on attachment in the early years, try OpenLearn’s free course