The Corona pandemic has taught us many things which seemed unimaginable previously and one of them is online schooling. Majority of us remember waking up in the morning, rushing to get ready and running to school or to catch the school bus to be on time, playing with friends on the school grounds, having tiffin together, sitting on benches in class, copying from the blackboard and having a spring in our step on the way back home thinking about all the fun we would have at home.
Compare that to the kids today where they wake up, get ready and sit in front of a computer all by themselves and try to sustain their attention for the whole day with fluctuating internet, private chats, working parents, and lack of supervision in a world that is bizarre and nightmarish if it was not the reality.
Whether we like it or not, online school is here to stay. This phase to adaptation is stressful for schools, teachers, parents as well as the little kids who have had their whole world turn upside down as the boundaries between school and home seem blurred like never before.
It is important for Parents and Teachers to acknowledge that the children especially the younger ones might be feeling anxious, confused, lost. We need to set expectations keeping in mind that this is a phase of readjustment. Some children may thrive but there may be others who may struggle and fall behind. They might show defiance, oppositional behaviour and behavioural concerns. It is crucial for parents to be supportive and sensitively handle this unprecedented situation.
Here are some tips to help kids in this situation:
1. Designated learning space: Arrange a space for home school which is relatively clutter free and away from distractions like toys. It might help if the space is facing the wall so the little kids are not easily distracted by sounds or movement. Use this space only for schooling and avoid using the same space for playing or watching TV.
2. Adequate breaks: It is difficult to sustain attention for long periods of time especially online. Make sure that adequate movement breaks are scheduled as part of their time-table. It also gives them a break from continuous screen time. For teachers, scheduling a PE class or yoga activity might help to break the monotony.
3. Follow a schedule: If parents are working from home as well as children with online schooling, having a schedule becomes more important to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Try to follow the same sleep and waking times. If parents are aware of some classes that might need extra supervision, they can schedule to be available for those times with the children.
4. Have Conversations: Encourage your children to express their feelings. Do not invalidate their concerns. Have open conversations about feelings and behaviours. As parents, it’s okay to acknowledge that you are feeling stressed too.
5. Have screen-free time in the day: Make sure that the children are getting enough sunlight and exercise in the day. Reduce their recreational use of screens and replace them with board games, painting, art and craft activities or messy play. Make dinner-times sacrosanct where all members of the family are away from screens.
6. Interaction with other children: Children need social interaction for their development which they were getting in abundance in school so they will miss this terribly. Whilst it is not safe for kids to see their friends in person, allow them to meet them virtually.
7. Make sure that your children have fun too: While this is not a vacation, do make sure that these times of treasured togetherness are not just all work. Let your kids have some fun family times together so that they make memories to last them a lifetime.
8. Stay in touch with other parents: As all of the parents are learning new ways to working effectively, it is best to learn from each other.
9. Positive reinforcement: Each time your child completes a task, follow up with praise and simple reinforcements like smiley stickers or a tick mark to motivate your child.
10. Be kind to your child and yourself: It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, we are all doing our best in challenging times and so are the kids. It’s okay to slow the pace or take a break which might give your child the time to process information and think creatively. Don’t compare yourself or your child to others as everyone has unique challenges that they are facing.
Though the pandemic has given us lots of challenges, it has also given us time to reflect and come up with creative solutions and thinking out of the box. Online schooling is one of the challenges that children, parents and teachers are facing and it has not been easy but we need to acknowledge and validate the struggle and deal with this situation and the children sensitively and realistically. The world is a new place and so will be the space of education.