Parenting during a pandemic

Every parent and family around the country is newly appreciating the value of educators to the lives of young children. You may find this blog helpful to share with families in your early learning community or you might be at home yourself with young children and facing the prospect of Term 2 and how you can best support your children’s learning, development and social-emotional wellbeing. ECA has put together some ideas and suggestions and will follow up soon with another blog on creating a learning space at home.

As we try to flatten the coronavirus curve as a community, families are spending more time at home with each other than ever before. Working while educating, entertaining and nurturing young children can cause stress and family conflict. For two-parent families it can seem overwhelming with financial worries, logistical challenges, like grocery shopping and work outside of the home. These challenges can be multiplied for single parents or families where members have special needs.

Find new routines

Experts say that the best way to get through this time is to maintain a routine—what this looks like for each family will differ.

In many states and territories it is holidays—a break from school routines. It can be a good time to plan for new routines in Term 2. From the child’s perspective, the sudden ‘disappearance’ of educators, school friends and other daily routines last term may have caused anxiety. You can support your children through this by setting up new routines. They don’t have to be regimented, it could be as simple as a regular waking time, a healthy breakfast and getting dressed for the day before blocking out time for physical activity—give your children a sense of what the day may look like.

To strengthen the interactions you have with your child throughout the day (and to minimise frustration if you are trying to achieve work), set aside times where you can focus on them and facilitate their play and activities, then work at a time when children are napping, watching a movie or playing a board game, puzzle or interacting with a sibling.

A new routine can provide a sense of security and wellbeing for young children—and for parents.

Manage expectations

Set the right emotional tone—how parents respond to a challenge can greatly influence how children do.

Don’t feel guilty if some days your young children only spend a small amount of time doing structured learning activities. Whatever you are able to manage is enough. Children’s brains are shaped and designed through play and active exploration and they’re experts at it! Count all those hours of play as important learning opportunities.

We know that your child will not be receiving the same learning experiences as they would in an early learning environment, or in their classroom. Your child’s school or early learning service may have provided you with a pack of activities for home schooling. For some, this may feel overwhelming. It can be useful to take a longer view. Perhaps reach out to your child’s educator and ask about the priorities for the coming weeks to work towards. They know your child and it can be helpful to discuss a broader context for their learning and developmental activities.

Be realistic about what you can manage in these very unexpected and anxious times. It is impossible to juggle everything, so cutting yourself, and your children, some slack may make each day a little easier.

Create space

If two or more caregivers are home, working out a shared plan for work time and time with the children can help each of you manage your work and the intensity of the changes your family is undergoing. Try to set aside some time free from the pressure of achievement or learning goals, simply to ‘be with’ your child. Think of it as time to build your relationships and connections with each of your children. You can also create spaces that allow for different types of activities for different family members. Even in a small house, you can designate a working area for yourself and a play area for your child. Or a quiet zone where adults and children can chill, read or listen to music on headphones and a separate zone for dancing, indoor ‘circuits’, hall cricket or louder activities and movement.

With some planning, communication and a flexible attitude—particularly self-kindness! —you’ll be better able to survive and hopefully enjoy, your COVID-19 experience at home with young children.

Helpful resources

  1. Read more about home schooling on The Conversation
  2. Food and cooking provide a variety of opportunities for children to explore the properties of food from a scientific perspective, as well as introducing the importance of healthy eating. This book provides a store of practical ideas focusing on food and cooking, enabling you to plan ahead with confidence.
  3. Packed with games, stories and memorable information, Good ideas will show every anxious parent and bored child out there that the best kind of education really does start at home—and how exactly to do it.

 

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Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938. We are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.

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