Thoughts on Raising (and Teaching) Children during COVID
Touching on the social dynamics of children going to school online and on Zoom…
You have a front-row view of shifts in your child that you’ve seen pre-pandemic to now: but how can parents identify alarming changes and help combat the effects of COVID on children? Read below for some thoughts on how COVID might be affecting your children, and tips on how to help out.
Zoom is the New Playground
We spoke with Stephanie Juarez, a working mom in the Southern California area, who has noticed major changes in her son, who is 17 years old. She recalls that before COVID, her son was on the shy side- but luckily his Sophomore year of high school was becoming a breakthrough. “He joined the water polo team and we finally felt like he was improving his social skills, making friends, and was the happiest we’d seen him. Before that, his interests were in video games or activities that isolated him”. She told us the first few weeks of lockdown were easy for her son; his friends would keep up via FaceTime, Call of Duty (an extremely popular Xbox game among teenage boys), or the occasional phone call. But as time went on, week after week on Zoom school, her son began to take some steps backward and was showing signs of burnout. Although he started with a strong desire to get back into water polo and wanted to keep up with his high school friends, these were soon replaced by mood changes which led him into isolation. Stephanie recalls her and her husband purchasing a VR toy that he hadn’t picked up in months. “I’ll never forget the moment he picked up that headset for the first time in months. We were devastated- but what can you do? Of course, we set limits and encourage him to do other things, but to see him shift so quickly back to his ‘virtual world’ was heartbreaking. Kids don’t know how to cope with what’s going on.”
One recommendation that Stephanie said helped her was more intentional family time. She said she let her two children pick meals each week and would involve them in cooking. Dad would bring them outside more on neighborhood walks. And they even started watching movies together. She also called up a few other moms from school and set up social distance play dates, which she feels has helped her son a lot.
Loss of a Routine
Does your family (among many others) rely on resources like sports, summer camps, after-school daycare, and general activities to keep your children active (and you sane while you’re working)? Chances are those programs haven’t started back up, and if they have, they’re a lot shorter than they were before. Kids used to be learning how to schedule their lives: school, then sports, then bath time, dinner, and bed, etc. Now, we expect them to say “use this meeting password at 12:15, then log off at 1:15, and go back on at 1:30 while mama is working”? If your kid is anywhere under the age of 5, good luck. Creating an at home school schedule is virtually impossible, but here are our tips on how to keep it controlled:
If you’re also working from home, (if your schedule permits), try creating a fun activity for your kid called “walk to class”. Getting up and moving will help their attention span, and this will make it fun. Get up from their workspace, walk outside or upstairs, and turn back around. Then, diiiing! The next class is in session! Additionally, call on other members of the household to help start your little ones Zoom classes, so you’re not on duty 24/7. Last resort, try forming a study “pod”- this is where a few mothers will hire a tutor to monitor a few kids at a time while they attend school.
We also loved this article that shares tips and tricks for even the most distracted children… It’s something new for children, teachers, and parents, so try to remain flexible and patient! Read the full article here.
Inability to become Inspired
Kids aren’t used to learning in isolation; it’s just not natural. The moments of asking a friend next to you what the teacher said or raising your hand to have your teacher check your work are nonexistent. Studies have shown that kids who felt like they had friends and supportive teachers thought school was more interesting, which made them more engaged and perform better. Recess is the best part of school, and without that- it makes the incentives much lower for kids to pay attention.
How to cope with this: try engaging more than usual in your child’s schoolwork. If you can help make up for their lack of in-school support, they’ll at least know someone cares. Even though 2nd-grade spelling can be the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day, it will have wonderful effects and lead to positive reinforcement for your children.
Lack of Exercise
Okay, P.E. over Zoom? Give us a break. Kids can hardly pay attention for 10 minutes over Zoom, let alone doing a form of exercise indoors. Parents, now is the time to dust off your workout gear and get some movement in with your kids. Children are not meant to sit in front of a computer all day: this not only affects their mental health, but also their bodies. Your kids need a break from screen-time. Studies have shown that children who have too much screen time don’t sleep as well, develop blurry vision, and have dry, irritated eyes.
Here are some solutions: monitor unnecessary screen time. Take into consideration how long their classes are and try to get them off the screen in between (but still allow them to socialize when school is done!). Also, take those smart devices out of their bedrooms, because they can make sleep a hard time. Lastly, try getting them outdoors for a daily walk or bit of exercise so they can release some of that energy.
Stress and Anxiety
It’s no surprise that kids have already shown much higher levels of stress and anxiety since the pandemic began. Parents are much more in tune with children, many of which have begun taking away more screen time or social media out of concern. It’s important to realize it’s inevitable to have more screen time right now because it’s the only way our kids can stay connected. Those who can’t talk to friends at all can easily become lonely, or even depressed.
Make sure you check in with your child once every day. Make mental health a priority in your household, and learn to talk about feelings. The best thing is to stay in tune with yourself, your partner, and your children. You never know how someone is coping with this pandemic. Try to make the most of it by being there for each other through these tough times. Our community is here for you, too.