Every Child Matters
13 Tips for Parents in Lockdown
By Kerry Dolan, teacher, small business owner and mum of three
Like many of you I have watched my news feed as parents have drawn up timetables, posted amazing creative projects, captured memorable moments of family fun or become frazzled and defeated from the weight of an impossible task.
The reality for every family is very different and as such, these tips may or may not be of any use to you. But I can tell you one thing. When your kids look back on the time that they were let out of school indefinitely, they won’t be remembering the quality of the worksheets you diligently printed for them, they won’t even dwell on how busy you were.
For many kids, despite the inevitable challenges and worries, this is like a giant snow day and, quite frankly, you really can’t fuck it up no matter what you do or don’t do. So please be gentle with yourself.
In our house, we have alleviated our screen guilt by insisting they are only to be used for educational or creative purposes during school hours. This has meant that our youngest has done a lot of natural education — watching a lot of David Attenborough, seen multiple episodes of horrible histories and played endless maths games. All in his underpants, I might add. There are tonnes of ideas for educational programs and free classes flying around at the moment.
Everyone must do some exercise. I don’t care which fitness guru they choose — for me it’s yoga with Adrienne or my favourite yoga teacher Tess Bickerstaff who has taken her classes on line — but I know my kids and if someone doesn’t wear them out, they will be unmanageable. They’ve done some PT in the garden with their dad — initially very much against their will but my son has taken to it and is now doing a daily run — lots of Just Dance videos and some tree climbing on our daily walks.
Everyone goes to their room for an hour’s quiet no screen time after lunch. They can read, draw, sleep…I don’t mind. This preserves my sanity. Again, this wasn’t popular to start with but they have all evolved their own little quiet time hobbies, from doll making to sticker making and even taking naps!
In my experience, you’ll need to be very specific. It also helps to play to their strengths. My middle child loves cooking so she has really helped out by making some lunches and dinners. My eldest hates cooking but has really enjoyed helping the others out with the work set by their schools which means I am fielding a lot less questions- she’s even been emailing her siblings’ teachers for me!
Don’t stress if your kid’s school is sending lots of work that isn’t getting done. I have three kids at three different schools and they are having vastly different experiences. My son was sent home with an empty exercise book and a list of online maths games, my middle daughter is being set two or three hours of work which she is keen to do and my eldest (11) has been set enough work to keep her going for a good seven hours a day.
Remember that this is all new to teachers too. They don’t know how much work to set and are under pressure to justify their existence. Many of them will also be struggling with homeschooling. If your child is getting too much work or not engaging, just reach out to their form tutor for reassurance.
Suggest projects that your kids can do independently (this is easier if they’re older). Mine are currently planning future travels for our family. Encourage them to choose an exciting destination, make plans for travel, what to see, where to stay, budget etc. It’s just as well my husband and I are still working full-time because our are planning trips to Egypt, Iceland, Hawaii, Japan and Sweden!
Get them to plan virtual days out for the weekends/ Easter Holidays. There are loads of virtual museum tours, zoo visits, roller-coaster rides. They can plan a day out, including making picnics and even dressing up.
If your work is really full on and you feel you are missing out on spending this valuable time with your kids, set yourself small goals. Maybe enjoy a week day lunch with them or a board-game after work. They will remember the little things.
Let The Kids Be The Guide
Be guided by the individual needs of your child and your family. Some will find motivating themselves to do schoolwork really challenging, others will be missing the routine and structure and will be more keen to engage with their work. Either is fine.
If you have parents who are tech savvy enough, set them up with some virtual dates to hang out with your kids while you get on with work or just have a break. This was an idea from a friend of mine and I love it! It’s a win for everyone.
If you are worried about screen time, limit it to whatever you feel is appropriate and let your kids work through the boredom to the other side where they will find some — often obscure and messy — ways to entertain themselves. It’s not your job to entertain them constantly. That’s exhausting!
Set A Challenge
If you have younger kids you probably read the last point and scoffed — fair enough! Yours will manage shorter bursts and will need supervision, but fill up a box of bag of random (safe) household items to rifle through if they’re really small or a box of Lego and a challenge if they’re older.
Involve Them More
Get them involved in the stuff you have to/ love to do. One of the ways we like to beat ourselves up is to look at the way other parents engage their kids and feel bad that we aren’t doing what they do.
Your crafty friend who’s kids are creating masterpieces, your friend with a passion for cooking whose family is turning out insta perfect cupcakes or your practical friend who’s kids have rewired the house. You don’t have to do any of that stuff. Just do what you do, that’s enough.
If your kids spend a couple of months in 2020 in their underpants, doing nothing but playing Roblox and watching TicToc, they will still be okay. In fact, they will probably look back very fondly on these times.
Remember to take care of yourself too. Be kind to yourself and know that you are, of course, doing the best you can under your particular circumstances ❤️