We have put together some resources for you during this COVID-19 pandemic. Please take a moment to look them over and let us know if we can be of further assistance to you.
Implement Structures, Routines, and Rituals
(From The Teaching Force!, by National Training Director Catherine MacDonald Burns)
You may have seen the Pinterest-worthy, multi-colored daily schedules floating around social media the past couple of days. Props to families that can hold to this without tearing out their hair, but don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations.
Instead, create structures, routines, and rituals that will help your day go more smoothly and that create a sense of safety, predictability, and calm. Kids want to know they can trust the boundaries and expectations that you set, so plan for pushback. Consistency is the key.
Here are some examples:
- Continue to set an alarm in the mornings. It’s okay if this is later than usual!
- Create a Morning Mindfulness ritual where kids can do yoga, stretch, journal, draw, or listen to a guided meditation. Then have them set an intention for the day.
- Have kids shower and change out of pajamas and into clean clothes. This helps switch mindsets from “lazy Saturday” to “ready-for-anything Tuesday.”
- Ask what the most challenging academic task is on your kid’s plate today. If they can handle it independently, schedule time to do this mid-morning when kids are most awake and alert. If they need help, schedule a time when a parent, sibling, or caregiver is available to support.
- Make space for transitions and turning their brain off between tasks. Give kids opportunities to move and be social to help them re-set their brain for the next task. Go for a run outside, play with little brother, FaceTime grandma, Snapchat a couple friends, or do the dishes from breakfast with mom.
- Create at least 15–30 minutes a day of quiet reflective time. This can be sustained silent reading, drawing, reflective writing, listening to music with headphones, or taking a nap. Try this right after lunch (or during an important Zoom call you have to take.)
- Change up modalities. If your kid just finished reading for social studies, don’t have them start reading for English immediately after. Switch it up! Do a brain teaser for math or draw a self-portrait for art in between.
- Create a visual signal for when you’re available if you’re working from home. A stoplight visual with red (do not interrupt unless it’s an emergency), yellow (knock first), or green (come on in) can help set boundaries.
Give Kids Opportunities for Voice and Choice
The universal triggers of stress are uncertainty, lack of control, and lack of information. One way to combat these stressors is to give kids agency : power to advocate and make decisions for themselves. You’re probably already doing this: presenting several appropriate options for your kids to choose from and honoring their choice.
Some examples of how this works:
- If an expectation is that kids will put on fresh, clean clothes every day, give them the power to choose their outfits. Ballerina tutu? Awesome. Red plaid pants with an orange striped shirt? Love it. Leggings and old sweatshirt? Cool. Set the expectation and let kids be creative within the parameters.
- Give kids a to-do list for the day and let them decide how and when to accomplish each task. Check in periodically to see how they’re doing and what support they might need. Make these requests reasonable and let kids check them off and have a little celebration for each task they accomplish.
- Give kids a limited number of appropriate choices. “Let’s take a 10-minute break and move our bodies before we start on science. Do you want to put on a song and dance, go for a walk outside, or follow a yoga video?"
- Ask for their opinion on what’s going on: “If you were in charge right now, what would you do?”
- Kids want to help! If there are ways that kids can support your community, give them the power to do so. Writing a letter to someone in a nursing home, drawing a picture for the doctors and nurses at a local hospital, recording videos of themselves reading books for younger kids, or translating information into their native language for their community empowers kids as helpers.
Make Sharing, Connecting, and Understanding Each Other a Priority
Humans are social creatures, especially kids. When students are at school, there is unlimited opportunity for social interaction. That social interaction gives kids a sense of community. Suddenly being taken away from that community can trigger anxiety and depression. And, even in the most cohesive families, being stuck together for days on end naturally creates opportunity for conflict.
Some ways you can mitigate this:
- Give kids age-appropriate rationale for what’s happening. Instead of framing this as a “lockdown” or “isolation,” explain that they are helping save lives in their community. They are standing in solidarity with others who need us to take care of them right now.
- Share how you’re feeling, within reason, before asking kids how they’re feeling. Model vulnerability. It’s okay to say, “I feel frustrated that we can’t go visit our neighbors” or “I feel overwhelmed with all these changes happening so suddenly” or “I feel so grateful that we get to be together right now.” Ask kids, “How about you? What do you think about all this?”
- Give kids space to talk or not talk. If you notice a big shift in behavior, check in during a quiet moment. If kids have questions you don’t know the answer to, tell them you’ll do some research or you can research together to find out.
- Let kids have opportunities to connect with other kids their age. Whether this is through FaceTime, or texting, or Skype, or even through snail mail with a pen pal in the neighborhood.
- Make time at the end of the day for board games, charades, or playing music together before kids get ready for bed.
- Praise kids specifically for something you noticed: “Keisha, you were so helpful to your little sister on her math homework today, I really appreciate you stepping up to support her." "Lee, I love how detailed the drawing you made for art class was. How did you come up with that idea?”
- Model handling conflict. Take time to cool off, share your emotions, own your mistakes, offer what you could do differently, and ask for what you need from your kids.
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
A last word of advice from this teacher: "Sometimes, you have to abandon the lesson plan."