As of last Thursday 12th March at 6 p.m., schools and childcare facilities in Ireland have been closed due to the government mandated closure which is aiming to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This has no doubt had significant consequences for parents and families as a whole. As many companies have been forced to close or send their employees home due to the virus that is currently sweeping the nation, many will find themselves juggling between working from home and doubling as a teacher/parent.

Working from home can have its difficulties at the best of times. Wi-Fi can be temperamental, communication is often disrupted and that one file that you really need will of course have been left behind in the office. Throw children into the mix on top of all of this and it can be a recipe for disaster! In this week’s blog, we will be highlighting some advice that parents might find useful in the coming weeks as they find themselves essentially sharing the office with their children. These tips and tricks have been taken from parents who are currently working from home, while attempting to keep kids on track with their schoolwork.

These are unprecedented times for us all and it can be very easy to slip into habits that are counterproductive and damaging to a child’s development. As tempting as it is to sit the kids down in front of Netflix for hours on end in order to get some peace and quiet, this can be potentially harmful to their mental and physical health. It isn’t going to be easy, but setting up a good routine with the following guidelines from the get-go is essential. This will not only benefit your children, but implementing a routine early on will give you time during the day to focus on your own work.

Sitting down with your children and asking them personally what they would like to be doing while schools are shut might seem counterproductive and as if you are giving them free reign, however a positive result will often be yielded by doing so. Children like to feel valued and as if they have a say in their day-to-day routine. By suggesting to your child that you write up a timetable together as a family, you are giving the child the opportunity to let you know what they would like to do over the coming weeks. Maybe they have been struggling with maths and would like to spend some extra time working on it? Maybe they have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or are interested in learning a new language? Does cooking interest them? Maybe gardening is something they would love to try their hand at? Would they like to learn how to dance or take singing lessons? There are an abundance of free learning tools online that children can avail of that will allow them to learn new skills in an enjoyable way. This is an ideal opportunity to teach children to view the internet as a valued learning resource. Asking children for their opinions also gives them a sense of worth and a feeling of being valued and important. This means that a timetable can be drawn up in which school work is prioritised and then creative learning activities can also be included to ensure children are kept entertained and mentally stimulated.

It has already been highlighted that while it might be easy to allow kids free reign of the remote, it can be damaging to their mental health to sit in front of a screen all day. This is also true when it comes to phones and tablets. While we all know how difficult it is to prise a phone out of a young person’s hands, it is important to ensure that boundaries are put in place when it comes to screen time throughout the day. Yes it is important for children to remain in contact with their friends, however there is no need for a child to be using their phone for any longer than 1.5 hours per day. Setting clear limits for when phones can be used and how long for is important in ensuring that children understand the necessity of living in the real world, rather than the digital one, especially at a time like this.

It is an age old phrase, but it could not be more relevant to this situation; tidy space, tidy mind. It is a great idea to apply this to your child’s school work routine while they are at home. This does not mean to say that you need to set up a classroom in your house, however putting aside some time to create a safe, tidy and comfortable space for kids to learn is important. Even if this space is at the end of the dining room table, a small desk in their bedroom or a coffee table in the sitting room, it is vital that a child is given their space in order to make the transition from school to home learning as smooth as possible. The work space will give a child the ability to differentiate between when it is time to work and when it is time to play or relax.

While it is so important that children keep up with the work left for them or sent daily by teachers, it is also necessary to give kids time during the day to just be kids. They need to play and explore and use their imaginations as it is a vital part of their development. Having designated ‘play time’ slots throughout the day gives children the opportunity to be creative and take a break from school work. It is also so important to keep kids active. This can be a challenge when we are all being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, however a couple of brisk walks around the block a couple of times a day does wonders for energy levels and boosts moral. If you have a trampoline in the garden encourage your children to go for a ten minute bounce between Irish and Maths homework! If you have a dog, ask the kids to go out and play fetch after their lunch! Physical exercise is not only good for the body – it is so important for mental wellness. Fitting in as many physical activity and play breaks during the day will increase the wellbeing of your child and decrease the likelihood of them growing bored and restless later in the day.

These are difficult and unforeseen times for everyone and it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the situation. It’s not always easy being a parent, and it is certainly no picnic while trying to work from home at the same time as home schooling. However, we hope that following the above tips and sticking to a routine will make it even marginally more manageable. If anything, look at this time as an opportunity to reconnect with your children and family. Sometimes just having a bit of good old fashioned fun is the best we can do in a situation like the one we find ourselves in now – so dust off a few board-games, bake a cake, do some dancing in the garden, have a karaoke competition! Enjoy the precious moments with them as much as possible, and while the world seems to have slowed down – really live in the moment!

~ Author: Ruth Walsh, After School Manager, Tyrrelstown ~


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