The past six months have challenged us in ways we have never experienced before: Health scares; toilet paper shortages; relationship changes; unprecedented isolation; jobs lost; fires, tornadoes, hurricanes; murder hornets (were those even real?); powerful emotions.... all of this has affected us, our families, and our children!
AND chances are if you have school-age children, you are experiencing some sort of "Distance Learning" right now. Every day, more parents are posting pictures of their kids slumped over in chairs in front of computer screens, falling off those chairs, outright sleeping by the computer, or otherwise simply looking distressed. We are also seeing and hearing about a growing dissension between parents and teachers. It's heartbreaking and frustrating and depressing and scary. What's a mom to do? These are challenging times and we need to learn to do it differently to support our children, create routines to help them be successful...and not lose our own mind in the process!
This article is going to give you 5 WAYS to help you and your children navigate these difficult times most successfully:
#1 See the Best
What you focus on is what you are going to see the most. Therefore, if you focus on thinking: "These freaking teachers don't know how hard it is to do what they want me to do to help my kid and do my own work!" Then, you are going to experience anger, fear, judgement, and disgust. If instead, you focus on what you DO have, what IS good, right, true, and helpful, then you are going to experience feelings of gratefulness, gladness, relief, and appreciation. Let's face it: In EVERY SINGLE situation there is a "gap" between what you expect and what actually IS (Mom Minute). What you fill that gap with is your choice - "Believing the Best" or "Assuming the Worst." It is going to help YOUR attitude; and therefore your child's, if you chose to believe that these teachers are actually doing the very best they can or understand that they may also be dealing with their own kids at home or illnesses of a family member, and so on. Since we ALWAYS make it up, why not make it up positively?
#2 Communicate with Your Child's Teachers
As a parent, you are ultimately responsible for the care and education of your child. This is your child and therefore you can choose to use what the school district is providing, or research and pay for - and even teach if you choose to homeschool - another curriculum or program or education method. If you chose to use distance learning - just like when your child goes to a brick-and-mortar school - then you need to be informed and take an active role in knowing what your child's teacher expects in terms of assignments, attention, and expectations (i.e. video on/off; snack eating yes/no; playing with fiddle toys or not; etc). Find out what your child needs to have ready before class begins each session (paper? pencils? other materials?) so that he or she can learn the skill of being prepared. Remember to "See the Best!" These teachers have dozens of students, are all brand-new at teaching in this way, and may not be able to get back to you as quickly as you desire (like right now!). Above all, take some deep breaths and know that it's all going to be OK....eventually.
#3 Establish Expectations
It's never too late to establish expectations in your home - even if school has already started! Actually, it can be a helpful teaching tool for your children to hear you say, "You know what? I learned a different way to do something so we're going to try it!" This will help THEM learn to try new things, be flexible, and understand we all continue to grow when we learn new information:
* Make and maintain consistent wake, sleep, rest, and eating times.
* Take periodic breaks to move at least once an hour - twice an hour for children under 8 (Join them in doing sprints or stretches).
* Help them be successful by saying what TO do rather than what NOT to do. For example, "It's time to do math. Sit here so we can start" is more effective than, "Don't do that! You know you're not supposed to be falling off your chair!" It is important that you set expectations for how your children will organize their day since predictable routines set our brains up for success. More on this next!
#4 Create Predictable Routines
Having a predictable daily routine in your home helps children feel a sense of belonging, builds necessary connections that create cooperation, and sets them up for success. Since research shows that our brains are pattern-seeking, we need to do all we can to create predictable patterns for our children to thrive. If most of our days are predictable, we can all better handle small changes without major meltdowns.
However, young children think in pictures (this means they actually SEE images to help them know what to do next), so it is most helpful to create a schedule in pictures so they know what is happening now and next (see Routines Matter in Blended Families for more information).
#5 Establish Quiet Times Reflection
If you have multiple children with a variety of needs and numerous teachers, distance learning can be even more challenging. This is stressful for everyone and it is imperative that we help our children manage the range of emotions they may be experiencing. But there's NO way we can do this until we first recognize our OWN emotions. Often we transfer our own stress and worry to our children without even knowing it!
Taking time each day to "S.I.F.T." can help with this! This acronym stands for - Sensations. Images. Feelings. Thoughts. In just a few moments each day - maybe before each meal - ask yourself and your kids these questions to encourage an awareness of our feelings and thoughts in this present moment.
Sensations - “What sensations do you notice in your body right now?” Your child may notice the feel of the chair under her legs or you may notice a tightness in your neck (which can help you stretch it out!)
Images - “What are the pictures you see in your mind right now?” You may find yourself picturing the mounds of work you need to do (then pivot so you can focus on what you're doing right now) or your child may picture seeing the faces of his friends (which may help you see how he wants to connect with them).
Feelings - “What feelings or emotions do you notice right now?” Perhaps your child is feeling anxious over an upcoming text or you feel excited that the week is almost over. Whatever either of you feel is OK - just recognizing them in the moment is what's important right now.
Thoughts - “What are you thinking about or what are you telling yourself right now?” This question helps us decipher what our inner voice is telling us: Basically are you/your child thinking: "This is hard but I can do it!" or "This sucks, I hate it, I'm no good at this!"
SIFTing helps us recognize feelings and thoughts and be mindful of what we're thinking about so we can decide to change them...or not!
If you try any of these in your home, please share in the comments below how it has worked for you!
#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them!