Countless times throughout this pandemic and quarantine I’ve heard “But they will fall behind.” This is in reference to all the kids currently missing physical school. Here’s the thing, the entire World is going through the very same situation. As far as students not being in school, there has been a huge setback for everyone. Therefore, they can’t fall behind if they’re overall on the same playing field as everyone else.
During this time, so many people are either working from home, furloughed, unemployed, and/or are essential workers. Every one of these are consequences to our current situation. Every one of these can and will most likely cause mental health instability. Therefore, imagine what the fragile mind of a child is going through right now.
I did my Master’s Thesis for Elementary Education on how important proper transitions are to children. Extreme change for any child (especially one who already has underlying mental health and/or learning disabilities) can be devastating. It’s difficult for adults; children are exponentially more effected by extreme change. For example: If I tell a child “It’s time to come inside” without any warning, the majority of kids (especially PreSchool and Kindergarten aged children) will not respond well. Some may even throw a tantrum. However, if I start by saying “You have 20 minutes until it’s time to go in… 15 minutes… 10 minutes… 5 minutes… Okay, it’s time to go inside.” The response will be much more favorable. Abrupt change takes us from our safe space and brings us to a place of worry.
I know personally, my 6 year old has had extra behavior issues, more tantrums, and has been giving me a hard time doing physical worksheets for school. My son is anxious, he misses his normal routine, his friends, his teachers, and he misses being able to go places. He misses learning in his school environment. Even though I’m a former teacher; it’s just different at home.
Even though I started out trying to have a “normal routine” (nothing is truly normal during a pandemic), both of my kids (yes, even the 1 year old) didn’t take well to the change. Home is the safe space. Home is meant for exploring, imagination, make believe, testing limits, and comfort. Home is where mommy helps build forts and daddy plays video games. Home is NOT where we normally have “school” all day.
Every day is a new learning experience for me as a mother and former educator. Every child is different and learns differently. My 6 year old son doesn’t like being told (by me) to do worksheets every day. He does however LOVE Science experiments. He does LOVE building things and using his imagination. So, that’s what I’ve decided to run with lately. His behavior is ten times better when we are doing these things. He learns so much better through playing and doing. Worksheets just aren’t going to work for him every single day. I’m so thankful that his School District has provided learning packets. I’m thankful his teacher has provided resources. However, I’m most thankful that no one is requiring anything of him.
In this time of uncertainty and confusion, what kids need most right now is one constant. They need the parents they have always had. They don’t need parents barking orders to complete assignments. They do need hugs, kisses, playing, movies, coloring, exploring, nature, and overall LOVE. If you do want to focus on something academic besides letting your child/children explore, then read to them. Read them almost anything. The more vocabulary that they hear and/or see, the more they will retain.
I promise you this… a few months of a more relaxed educational experience will not break your child. If anything it will give them a very possible much needed mental break. Let them be kids. As parents, use this opportunity to focus on things that schools can’t. Teach your kids to ride a bike, plant flowers, cook passed-down family recipes, bake chocolate chip cookies, be responsible for their rooms, use their manners, and anything else that is valuable to your family. Best personal benefit of focusing more on your child/children’s mental health, is that you will ultimately and simultaneously be working on your own as well.