So there’s no denying that the parent juggle has now gone up a whole other level; and for those trying to carry on their day jobs at the same time it’s even inspired a new acronym: WFHWK.
Which probably looks a lot like what you might end up typing in panic, as you try to log on to Maths with Parents, whilst joining a client Zoom call; figuring out a menu for the week and how to ensure everyone gets a dose of exercise within the confines of our one walk/scooter/cycle/run a day.
So first up - take a deep breath. You are not expected to now step up to the plate and win teacher of the year award (even if some of you may well be capable of this). But these are unprecedented times and in the words of one primary school teacher; shared on Facebook by Siobhan Burchill:
“It is absolutely not possible to facilitate distance learning with a primary aged child and work from home at the same time. The very idea is nonsense. If you're trying to do that, stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but your focus is your job, and survival.”
It’s worth looking at that post, if you are on Facebook, as it provides a very reasoned approach to helping your kids with their school work.
In addition we've collated a few suggestions to help navigate this; drawn from a number of expert sources as well as parent experiences:
1. Strike the right balance for you and your kids: some parents may want a detailed schedule and as close a semblance to the school day as they can manage; others may want to kick this to the kerb and spend this time with their kids with very little, if any, structure. This will ultimately be your choice; though it’s worth noting that advice from leading educational psychologists is that kids do need some routine and that in times of stress and uncertainty this helps give them some security. In the words of Dr. Damour, child psychologist and adolescent specialist. “Children need structure. Full stop. And what we’re all having to do, very quickly, is invent entirely new structures to get every one of us through our days,”
For parents or carers maintaining or creating some form of routine can also be invaluable and help their mental health too, and if this includes a mix of physical exercise with creative play and some learning you are doing a great job. Scheduling regular breaks and meal or snack times will also help you and your kids keep a simple structure to the day.
2. Bake learning into the everyday: no doubt schools will be sending you plenty of instructions, log-ins and requests for work to be completed. Again, it will depend on your circumstances how much you (and your child) are able or wish to complete. This isn’t a competition and if all you do is encourage your kids to spend some time each day reading and problem solving (eg if there are four of us and we each want a slice of cake today and tomorrow, how many slices do we cut) then those are still invaluable lessons learnt.
3. Emotional security is as important as educational attainment: These are challenging and uncertain times, so even if our children aren’t vocalising this to us, the odds are that they are feeling it and with their usual routines disrupted it’s important that they feel they can rely on you for emotional support:
Tune into them - not just listen actively; but also be aware that all behaviour is a form of communication; so whether it's a significant increase in tears; aggression; withdrawal or frustration, spend time talking to them to get to the root of what’s bothering them. As adults we will all react differently to times of stress, so it is little wonder that our tweens will too.
Acknowledge their feelings and concerns - they may seem like small ones or fantastical ones, but they matter to your child, so try not to dismiss them - even if you are busy or have your own set of thoughts whirring through your heads. Give time and space for your tweens to be heard and for them to feel that you are taking their concerns seriously. If you’re looking for more guidance it is worth taking at look at Unicef’s guidance or this article on supporting kids with anxiety about coronavirus, by Richa Bhatia, Child, Adolescent and Adult psychiatrist.
Never underestimate the power of a hug - studies have shown that a loving hug held for at least 20 seconds offers mental and physical health benefits and if the heartbreaking reality is that you are needing to self-isolate from your kids, you can still share virtual hugs with them.
4. Make use of the free resources that work for you: it’s amazing that there are so many groups and individuals who have helped curate lists of educational resources and learning activities (many of them free), but this can also be overwhelming. Don’t feel you have to cram your - and their day - with all of them. Pick and choose the ones that have been recommended by friends; that have good reviews or that look the most interesting or useful. Perhaps suggest your kids can choose some of the options each week and try them out - and if they want to review them, we’d love to feature their review on twixt. One that has been universally popular has been PE with Joe Wicks live at 9am on weekdays.
But there are a multitude of other options out there, so for those who want more, it’s may be worth checking out this compilation of free resources
Most of all, hang in there. It won't last forever and we're all going through this together, so reach out to friends and family to help you and your kids through it. We’d love to hear your stories and the successes and challenges of working from home with kids, helping your tweens with their schoolwork or discovering new creative ways to fill the hours during lockdown, so do drop us a line at email@example.com or or via our social channels.