Changes to daily routines can be unsettling for all children and adults. Natural disasters and national crises like the COVID-19 crisis can and do affect healthy development, learning and mental health in children and adults.
“Remember that even low levels of stress affect our ability to sleep, learn, behave and feel safe,” said Tony Iniguez, trauma education specialist with Marshfield Child Advocacy Center at Marshfield Children’s.
During this time when kids are no longer in school, it is important to keep a consistent routine. The more you can make their week feel like a normal week at school, the better.
“During this time, schools do not expect you to be a trained professional teacher,” Iniguez said. “Keeping a routine will help you feel better about the situation.”
Here are some tips:
- Keep “schooling” Monday through Friday and avoid skipping days.
- Don’t sleep-in. While starting a little later is ok, sleeping until 12 is not. Be consistent.
- Follow your child’s school routine if possible. Many children do better with this predictability.
- Ask your child what their day looks like on a normal day and allow them to contribute to the development of their schooling at home routine. When children feel they have a voice, they are more likely to follow the scheduled school routine.
- Include times for recess or play, snack, movement, brain and body breaks. Avoid video games or apps during these breaks.
- Break up each subject or task into 30–40-minute sections with small 10-minute breaks.
- Schedule the hardest or most challenging subject early and alternate (tough, easy, tough…).
- Make time to help and encourage children during their tougher subjects. This may be all you can do, especially if you do not understand the material. Helping them stay positive is a powerful learning tool.
- Do book and paper work first. Schedule tablet- or computer-based work later.
- Include a snack and water break every two hours. Stress dehydrates children and adults.
- Schedule 20-30-minute quiet time or nap breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is for you as much as it is for them.
- End all schoolwork around the time their normal day ends.
The key during this time is to be prepared, consistent, patient and kind.