It has been a stressful week, or more like a stressful six months. This blog post is in response to a number of questions about establishing the best routines for your children in our new unpredictable normal:
“COVID-19 has completely changed many students’ routines. How can parents best support their children mentally, socially, and academically during this pandemic?” – Molly
Everyone’s routine has been disrupted. Disruption causes anxiety, especially for kids who crave routine. Anxiety doesn’t help us, but one thing we can do is empathize with each other and form support groups. Whether it’s wildfires in the West or hurricanes in the South, we are all coping and some of us less well than others. For many families this is a mental health crisis.
How can I bring calm and comfort to my family’s schedule?
The first thing parents can do is to help alleviate stress is to establish a routine. I recommend one routine for weekdays and another for weekends. Routines help kids feel secure. They know what to expect and that helps in a time where we don’t know what is coming. It creates a calmer home and sets expectations. It gives your child a sense of confidence because they can plan and it establishes healthy habits. Eating at a certain time every day, getting ready for school at a specific time, having lunch at the same time may sound boring but for kids it provides a sense of comfort and security.
Routines support kids’ mental health. They have an opportunity to get excited about what is ahead. Just being able to plan helps kids emotionally. Planning an outing on the weekend even with our constraints is something a child can look forward to. Planning is often as fun as doing the plan.
How can I best support my child socially and emotionally in their routine?
Socially, it is very important for kids to be able to spend time with friends. They should be able to do that once or more a day. Ideally they can meet up in person with a few close friends at least once a week, but alternatively they can meet online. Kids can play games, have free time, work on projects together or just hangout. It is best if parents do NOT supervise the time when they are with their friends unless they are under five years. It is important to give them independence and trust.
Another suggestion is to have them exercise with you or with their friends as part of their routine. Family Guide recommends 12 free online exercise resources, my favorite are:
- Cosmic Kids: Yoga for Kids
- Just Dance: Short Dance Videos from Just Dance
- Kidz Bop: Dance along videos for kids.
How can I best support my child academically in their routine?
As for academic achievement, it is important for kids to follow as much of their actual school as they can tolerate without getting stressed or discouraged. Sometimes it can just be overwhelming for kids. While school may not be an activity kids look forward to, it is important for them to attend. It is a “grit building” opportunity for kids and parents. Most teachers and schools are trying their best to make school as fun as possible. Some schools have gotten rid of grades to help kids. One teacher recently wrote about it in a blog post you can read here.
There are other options for kids if their school does not meet their academic needs and curiosity. One is Tract, which I co-founded with Ari Memar, a former Uber executive and also my former student. Kids age 8+ can pursue their own interests on gamified “Learning Paths” created by accomplished teens. It is a teen to kid learning community; the first of its kind. It provides an opportunity for kids to learn and have fun at the same time. You can try for FREE. It will provide parents with some time to relax.
You need to remember that kids getting behind academically is less important than kids feeling confident in themselves. Social emotional skills are more important in life than academic memorizing. A 2015 study from the American Public Health Association said the social and emotional skills taught in those early days of education are actually just as important, if not more than the academics. In fact, measuring social skills was more effective at predicting success than reading levels or test scores.
While it is normal for parents to worry, please remember that worrying isn’t productive:
“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you can’t solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” – Shantideva, 8th century C.E., Indian Buddhist sage