Ms. Fatima Agarkar, Educationist
If your child is struggling, it’s ok to feel scared and brave; determined and exhausted; concerned and proud; alone and supported; compassionate and frustrated; joyful and sorrowful, all at the same time. These are some of the common emotions that parents deal with during a ‘normal’ week each year, let alone during these lockdown times where parents, de facto become teachers. Yes, teachers and educators are doing their bit with virtual learning but we all know, it is a while before this can be perfected to what teachers can deliver in a classroom! Plenty of success stories with schools highlighting how life goes on with virtual teaching and learning, and while this is inspiring, it is also evident that many are struggling. From simple bandwidth issues to some children simply not ‘engaged’ enough. And mind you, this is not to do with the fact that the teachers are ill prepared - they have everything ready but what one can achieve face to face is taking for some children more time to get use to and this is no one’s fault. Time and exposure will address this and there is no point over-thinking this. Let’s accept these times are extraordinary. We had not anticipated it, we were not prepared and we clearly are testing our own attitude and resolve as we wait for the next set of instructions from the PM regarding the lockdown.
Nerves! Yes plenty of them when we are parents. This constant worry about kids not getting enough physical exercise or stimulation or trips outdoors to experience the real world etc. Let’s for a moment go back in time and reflect on what we had - we did not have technology, these diverse classes and family holidays were once a year to nearby cities perhaps even road travel, less malls, less eateries and basically, lots of time to get bored. Very few amongst our parents worried about ‘losing’ out on stimulus for us ... Quite frankly, we were left to figure out how to spend the hot summers ourselves. So let’s use these examples to help ourselves in these times and perhaps lean on technology as an able partner to ease our struggles. Let’s accept that we do not have all the answers nor do the parenting experts, nor do the teachers or counsellors and therefore, let’s creatively come up with ‘tools’ to help us calm down and set realistic goals for ourselves.
For those parents whose kids are on a pre-poned summer break, and your school teachers send you tons of online links, embrace this. I know for my consultancy schools we send everything from PE exercises to Music, NASA tours to Museum visits, Safari’s to worksheets (yes we know how all parents love these!!), from time capsule ideas to creativity and do it yourself activities to reading links . The list at times, gets overwhelming. Schools do this because they can about the children and they want to ensure that you have the necessary support at home to make these lockdown times easier to embrace.
For parents whose kids are on virtual learning platforms, be it live or pre-recorded flipped classrooms or curated content, these will take a bit of getting used to. Schools adopting this approach have no choice but to continue given they have months of curriculum to complete and must factor in learning milestones. Not easy for them and certainly credit to their effort to make sure they are on task!! But you may find, the child not coping, not understanding and you may find that you need to spend many more hours ‘teaching’ them. It is ok.
In either of the scenarios, I would not put pressure on myself. Not every link or e-resource sent home must be completed to perfection. And when children struggle with the questions, it is not because they are ‘slow’ or ‘incapable’, they need that ‘talking’ to and ‘explaining’ as teachers do in a classroom. So don’t get frustrated. Hang up with that other mother who says her daughter has completed everything in a flash!! Great for that child but yours, needs time and this is not a race! For those who need to spend time with the children after their live classes or virtual learning, give yourself a pat on the back. You are providing the support they need and creating a stronger bond with your children.
So as the quote says, as parents the emotions can range from joy when your child takes initiative and helps out with a chore without asking and frustration when you want the child to finish the worksheets and all he wants to do is watch telly, just accept these are ‘normal’ emotions. These are not normal times, and at times you have to be brave and determined to make sure you remain compassionate to their needs and honestly, yours. My recommendation is also reaching out to support groups in school like the counsellor or the coordinator to share your concerns and seek help from professionals to help you cope with your emotions. This will go a long way!
I am going to sign off with some simple ideas:
- Plan a routine for the kids with an exploration on line, planned activities, reading, listening to music etc that works for you (for pre-schoolers 2/3 hours routine daily; Primary 5 hours; Middle Schoolers 6 hours)
- Include children in all domestic chores (getting their clothes, bathroom cleanup, making their bed, cleaning their room, laying the table for all meals and clearing up, doing the dishes, cooking tasks)
- Meals can be extended with plenty of conversations and music (you have the luxury of time extend these as stress busters and have conversations about what they read, what they think, what’s exciting about tomorrow etc)
- Ensure that they are also chatting with their friends and other family members (use tech apps to make sure they are connected with their friends)
- Physical time - climb up and down the stairs, play games in the house that involve movement (treasure hunt), indoor exercise routines like chair step ups, skipping, catching, kicking ball) ..... make it a routine - lots of apps, on line recommendations and as a family you can do this
- If your child is struggling to cope with academics, reach out to fellow parents and have children help each other; reach out to the school and communicate and seek help
And remember, this is not a race. This is your child and allowing the child to emerge stronger from this experience is your greatest goal. Academics will happen. Life will not be re-lived so focus on skills and helping the child to master these life experiences.