You’ve likely received a district warning that this is a possibility, or perhaps your school has already been shut down. Below are ten tips for how to realistically prepare for school closings.
Our hearts go out to the people that have already been affected by the Coronavirus. These concerns are real and affect us all. We’re worried about people who are most vulnerable. We all have someone in our hearts we’re concerned about …
In light of all of this difficult news, we’re left wondering: How can we support each other?
On top of health concerns, if you’ve got school-aged kids, you’re trying to think forward to what an extended school closing might look like in your home. You’ve likely received a district warning that this is a possibility, or perhaps your school has already been shut down.
The thought of an undetermined amount of time at home trying to keep kids on track with school can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ll also need to be working from home. Typically, over summer break, there are a variety of options to help keep kids content. Without access to libraries, playgrounds, and activities 24/7 care can be a challenge.
We’ve been researching free educational resources (PreK & Elementary | Middle & High School), gathering information from specialists and doctors, and chatting up homeschool parents to get an idea of how to make this work for families.
How can we support one another? We can share helpful resources with each other. After all, we’re all in this together.
10 Tips for Prepare for School Closings
Here are a few tips to ensure you and your kids stay balanced during a mandated or volunteer quarantine.
Please share this message with other parents who you feel need this information too!
1. Kids will need a “new normal.”
Children feel safe and behave their best with routine and predictability. Since we currently don’t know how long schools will be closed, it is best to not treat this time off as an extended spring break. Start as you mean to go on. In other words, set up a flexible daily routine for your family from the get-go.
Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, encourages parents to “Try to follow routines because they provide comfort and a familiar structure to a child’s daily life.” Things like consistent bedtimes, wake-up times, and everyday activities like meal schedules and bathing are a great start.
2. Create a routine with bite-sized increments of school work
To ensure your child keeps moving forward with school, create a consistent yet flexible routine for learning. Don’t jump into the situation thinking your kids need to be doing non-stop schoolwork. A recent study by psychologist Karrie Godwin shows when learning, short breaks can help kids focus, increase their productivity, and reduce their stress.
What this looks like might vary from household to household depending on your kids’ ages. If your school hasn’t provided a lot of direction, check out this list of educational companies sharing free subscriptions during school outages. There are a variety of great options for elementary-aged students, as well as opportunities for middle and high school students.
- FREE educational subscriptions for PreK and elementary students
- FREE subscriptions and tools for middle and high school students
3. Schedule in daily doses of fun
Remember, “all work and no play” is a recipe for problems. When contemplating what your daily routine should look like, don’t forget to schedule in time for fun each day:
- Board games
- Outdoor yard playtime
- Movie parties
- Kitchen baking
- Live chats with friends
- Easy art projects (We love this source for young kids!)
- Playful screen time
4. Look for opportunities to connect
While being quarantined at home might feel overwhelming, it is also an opportunity for quality time with your family. Even if you have to work during the day, look for small opportunities to connect. For example, one friend of mine is having her daughter read Harry Potter out loud to her while she makes breakfast each day. There are so many small moments each day to make memories together.
5. Remember that alone time is important for kids and parents alike
The truth is that we all need a bit of solitude each day. This will be especially important if you or your children are introverted. Schedule time for independent study, reading, or solo screen time each day. You’ll both need the break.
A great way to add independent learning time into your day is through something called strewing. Author Jean Van Hul explains, “Strewing is the art of casually yet strategically leaving ‘invitations’ for learning and creativity out for your kids to discover on their own.”
See some examples of strewing invitations for young kids here. This might include blank paper and crayons left at the kitchen table for a young child or a sketchbook sitting on a cozy blanket on a chair for a teen.
6. Get outside and play
There’s something about open outdoor spaces that is exciting for kids — a form of escapism. The sense of freedom gained from playing outside and running without limits brings a happiness that is hard to rival.
A recent study in the UK found that even just five minutes of exercise in a natural outdoor environment can rapidly improve mental health and well-being in young people. Be sure to get your kids outside in the spring sun!
7. Ask your kids to step up
Talk with your kids about what you imagine your day-to-day schedule will look like, then get their input. If your kids are involved in ‘finalizing’ a routine, they’ll be more likely to actively participate.
This is also an opportunity for your kids to step-up when it comes to chores and helping the house stay clean! Children cope better when helping others because it creates a sense of control and helps them feel better about themselves.
8. Keep conversations honest
Continue to answer questions and have honest conversations about what is happening. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network suggests telling children exactly how the disaster affects their family, school, and community. Of course, what you discuss with your child depends on their age and developmental level.
They may be worried about the safety of their friends or extended family. Be honest if you really don’t know, but reassure them that communities are working hard to keep things under control. Focus on the steps you are taking as a family to be safe.
9. Know that kids are always listening
Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD explains, that our kids are always listening…
“Children rely on us so heavily to figure out how to interpret dire events that we need to be aware of the many different ways they learn from us and other adults. They listen to our words, notice the level of stress that our bodies communicate, watch whether we follow routines, and see whether we change our tone or attitude when we talk to others.
If we cannot maintain a consistent air of calm with friends or other adults, we should have those conversations in private, away from children, and preferably without children knowing that adults are speaking secretly, which will only raise their anxiety and undercut the sense of security we’re trying to communicate.”
Be smart about your conversations.
10. Remember self-care is not about duration — it’s about frequency
Our kids feel stressed when we are stressed. In the midst of all this, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Author Erica Layne explains that parents “need small, consistent acts of self-compassion, threaded throughout days and weeks.”
These twenty-four self-care practices are not just more things to add to your to-do list. (Heaven knows, you have plenty on your plate.) They’re simple practices to help you realign yourself, when the going gets tough, with that lens of love you want to see the world through.
. . .
One final reminder,
Give yourself some grace
If you are struggling, give yourself some leeway. Many parents will be working from home, and, if this quarantine is lengthy, we will all need to find ways to make this work. Practice the ‘other’ serenity prayer inspired by Eleanor Brownn as we move forward…
Please grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I always try my best, and the wisdom to know that I’m a good person with a kind heart.”
It’s okay to loosen your grip and let some things go. You’ve got this.
Please share this message with other parents who you feel need support.