Staying home with kids

Parents can use these guidelines to reduce household stress and make the most out of time with their family together. 
Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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As the Alice Cooper song goes, “School’s out for summer. School’s out forever.” California’s actions to delay the spread of COVID-19 have placed children and parents at home for the next few months. Many parents are trying to juggle working from home while educating and entertaining young children. For parents looking for a simple answer as to how to keep kids quietly occupied while working, there isn’t one.  But, there are ways to make this time on lockdown a little easier. Use these guidelines to reduce household stress and make the most out of this time together.  Parents are not teachers There is a reason teachers get a college degree in education. Teaching is hard, and not just because it involves wrangling 30 plus students for seven hours a day.  Breaking down a concept so that a learner can understand it is difficult. Introducing abstract ideas in a way that makes sense takes skill. Californians aren’t going to become professional teachers by September, and they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it.  Next fall teachers around the world will adjust their curriculum to help their students catch up, and classrooms will come back to grade level together.   Until then, engage children and teenagers in tangible learning opportunities around the house with the help of a concept that parents should take from the teachers’ playbook: Project based learning.  Project based learning is self explanatory and can be as simple or as complex as needed. If you went through the California school system, you probably experienced this kind of learning when studying the California missions. In project based learning, students study a concept in depth through tangible experiences.  Project based learning is meant to engage children of all ages in learning through the world around them. Baking is a great way to practice math skills and learn some basic chemistry. Give a lesson in local ecology through gardening. Have older students practice writing by making a cover letter for their dream job.  One of the most important factors in project based is student led interest. This is the time to encourage students to take a deep dive into the topics that they have always enjoyed studying, and let their interest in the subject matter lead the lesson.  You don’t need to play with your child Does your elementary school student enjoy attending golf tournaments, watching police procedural shows or just sitting with friends and chatting over Bleu cheese and a glass of wine? Hopefully not.  So why should their parents enjoy playing children’s games? Before you go crazy trying to follow your five-year-old’s ever evolving rules to Candyland, know this: You don’t need to play with your child. The adult’s role is to create a safe and engaging environment for children, not play.  Children have a capacity for imaginary play that is beyond the reach of most adult minds. Some people are really good at joining children’s pretend play. You don’t have to be one of them to be a good parent. Children look at the world with completely fresh eyes. Joining them was only going to slow down their imaginations. What’s more, if you hate pretend play, your child is going to know it. They will pick up on your boredom and it will make the experience unenjoyable for both of you. Screen time isn’t the worst thing that can happen Parents need breaks. Children need down time. Screen time isn’t inherently terrible.  Research has shown that when it comes to child rearing, quality of time is more important than quantity. And anyone who has spent time with young children can understand that too much quantity of time spent trying to get two children to stop bickering will lead to a steep decrease in quality. Let your child be a couch potato for a little while and get some work done. When the screen time gets to be too much, turn on an audiobook or a children’s podcast and have them do quiet activities while listening.  Talk with children about scary topics Children can understand that the adults in their life are afraid, even if they don’t know why. Ignoring the stressor is only going to make it harder for children to face it.  Turn off the news, but talk with children about the coronavirus in the most honest and age approved way possible. Acknowledge your feelings and help them articulate theirs. This is a stressful time for people of all ages, but we can still learn together. ]]>

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