School’s Closed; Now What?

March 20, 2020

While most of us saw it coming, the announcement of state-wide school closures hit hard. If you’re like the majority of the parents we’ve talked to, you’re likely overwhelmed by what seems like an impossible task—ensuring your kids have access to the academic resources they need while continuing to attend to your own work responsibilities and manage the day to day needs of any household. All while adhering to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations.

Kids thrive on routine, structure, and social interaction. Suddenly finding yourself responsible for creating all of three for your kids can feel daunting, at best. But, the good news is that despite the challenging circumstances, you can still create a structured and enriching environment for your kids with a little preparation and a lot of (virtual) support.

First, take a deep breath and remember these are your kids. You know them like the back of your hand. You know their needs, their wants, their interests, and the unique things that make them tick. Sure, you might be a trained educator. But you are their parent and nothing carries more weight than that. Next, read on for some helpful tips for navigating these circumstances.

Validate Your Feelings, and Your Child’s

Before diving into tips for managing the day-to-day reality of social distancing and virtual learning, let’s take a moment to come to full stop and validate your feelings.

Yes, the precautions being taken are designed to save lives and stop the spread of a global pandemic. Understanding (and even supporting) the strategy doesn’t negate the upheaval it has created. Your entire world has been turned upside down with very little time to prepare. You’re likely worried about friends and family and may be torn between wanting to make the most of this time to bond with your kids and the pressures you’re facing from your employer. All of those feelings deserve validation.

Furthermore, by allowing yourself to validate your own feelings, you’re demonstrating to your kids that their feelings are equally valid and deserve to be expressed and heard. Acknowledge that this can feel disappointing and frustrating, ensure your kids that you understand they miss their friends, and support each other is creating a home environment that feels like a soft place to land in very trying times. The best thing you can do for your children is to reassure them that it is ok to have whatever feelings they might have and that you’re here to support them throughout this; no matter how long it lasts.

Create a Schedule That Works, and Stick to It

If, as parents, you do one thing for your kids during this time – let it be making a schedule. While hard to see at the moment, schools will eventually re-open. Kids will return to their classes and routines. Taking the time to create and adhere to a similar routine will provide kids with a security and ease the transition back to “normal” life once school resumes.

The key to creating a schedule is a realistic look at your family and what works for your unique circumstances. Creating a schedule that no one can realistically adhere to is simply setting everyone up for frustration and resentment. Instead, consider the demands on everyone’s time, the age of your children, their unique attention spans, and your living environment when crafting a schedule.

If your kids are old enough to understand the task at hand, you can create a collaborative environment by including them in scheduling the days. No one says this needs to be an exact replica of their school day. Be creative with “electives.” Ask them what they want to focus on. Love to bake? Get the kids in on the fun. Struggling to get the kids on board with washing their hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day? Ask them to compose a 20 second song to sing while they scrub – and call it creative writing. Put on a family play for some drama or suggest they illustrate their daily experiences for an art lesson. With a little creativity, you and your kids can piece together days that are fun and fulfilling.

For working parents, have a sit down discussion with your partner. Review each other’s schedules and demands and coordinate a tag-teaming schedule. This way both of you are able to attend to your careers without worrying that your kids are vegging out in front of the tv all day.

Get Creative with Socializing

No, nothing beats coffee with friends or long afternoons on the soccer field. But, when it comes to socializing while social distancing, we have never before been so well equipped to stay close to our loved ones without leaving our homes.

From FaceTime to Google Hangouts to Skype, you and your kids have everything you need to schedule virtual playdates, arrange weekly dinners with friends, and take the time to reconnect with those you may have lost touch with.

For younger kids, this can be as simple as FaceTime-ing a friend to join them in coloring, building blocks, playing games, etc. Connect with the parent ahead of time, consider an activity that both kids enjoy and then coordinate a time that works for both of you to get the kids “together” to chat, play, and laugh.

For older kids, suggest they set up a weekly Google Hangout to catch up on each other’s lives, commiserate about homeschooling, and laugh about the various parental mishaps that are inevitably happening at home.

Both will go a long way to ensuring your kids feel connected and supported during these times. But, as always, practice caution and stay close when giving your kids access to new technology.

Plan to Re-evaluate Regularly

None of this is going to go smoothly, especially not in the beginning. We are all navigating uncharted territory. Relax, cut yourself a break, and anticipate the fact that you will likely be re-evaluating and tweaking on a daily or weekly basis.

A Message to Parents: We Will Get Through This TogetherTalking to Your Kids about COVID-19 and Social Distancing
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