By Agashnee Naidoo
A lot of families are faced with the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought upon us. In addition to this anxiety, parents are going through the process of home schooling their children. I am no expert in home schooling, however having worked with children for most of my career and being a children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher as well as a speech and language therapist, I am here to give you some quick tips to help you out during these times.
“What can I do to help my child learn during these times?”
I hear parents tell me it is insane working from home and also trying to home school all three children. There is no “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” for the families. During this time, it is important to keep calm and carry on and bring some mindfulness to everyday tasks.
I know from experience that most families are struggling with engaging their child. A two-hour homework task is now taking four hours and children are becoming more distracted.
Further, the home environment is different from a school environment in terms of resources, expertise and the social environment. Trying to emulate a school environment may not always work. I’m sure we are all doing our best!
Despite it all, if there is a positive to come out of the kids being at home, it is that their imaginations will become fuller and richer, inspiring them to be creative.
I hope the following tips will be helpful during challenging times.
- Set up a learning space. Try to reduce distractions. Turning the TV off and switching off app notifications will help.
- Try to gain insight into your child’s learning style. Use the opportunity to know your child better and build a stronger relationship.
- Involve the kids in planning the structure of their day.
- Play reward games with your child. Snakes and ladders and board turn taking games are also useful.
- Take small breaks to help your child remain focused on the task. Learning is tiring. Do physical exercises, a mindful walking exercise, colour or draw a mandala. What is a mandala? The word mandala is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “circle.” Mandalas are found in different cultures and contain special or even spiritual symbols. There are many beautiful mandalas! As an art form, it is also fun to introduce the mandala craft to children.
- Use worksheets if needed, based on your child’s interest. There is a website called ‘Twinkl’ with lots of different worksheets with characters on them.
Communication is key.
- Help your child communicate his/her needs better by repeating, rephrasing and extending their utterances. Also, keep checking in with your child to see how they are progressing, and offering to help if they need it.
- We all need a bit of connection at this time, especially young ones. They may ask questions and it may be difficult to explain. An example story of the coronavirus is here.
- Using social stories in speech therapy works well and this story is especially good to explain the concept of social distancing to children. Their everyday routine has been stopped, remember do give them time to adjust too!
Integrate play with learning.
- Play “guess what I am”. The game is to give the child three clues about an item without telling them what it is and the child has to guess the item. For example: I am red or green, crunchy and I grow on trees. What am I? (An apple).
- Remember that exercise is a good mental health activity. Don’t forget to incorporate it into your child’s routine. Joe Wicks schoolworkout can be easily done from home and is taking the UK by storm. Cosmic kids yoga is great too.
- Finally, make peace with the uncertainty. Sometimes you may wake up and feel like this reality may not be happening. We don’t know what will happen or how long this will last but one thing we do know is that worrying about it won’t change the outcome. Taking the time to decrease your own anxiety will help your child and benefit everyone around you. Family game nights, or cooking and eating dinners together, are also welcome distractions and connect with your child’s emotions.
Be creative, flexible, and find the balance that will work for your family. Lastly, it is important to remember that everyone around the world is in the same situation, we are all in the same boat. We will come through together and overcome. Stay safe and healthy.
Agashnee Naidoo, originally from South Africa, came to the Netherlands by way of the UK. As a speech therapist and children’s yoga and mindfulness instructor, Agashnee is always keen to help kids grow and develop.