A trailblazer in educational innovation, Kavita Sahay Kerawalla, Vice Chairperson of VIBGYOR Group of Schools, has been an educationist for over two decades. She believes that education can be the catalyst to transform the world, inspire the young generation and make the world a better place. A powerful driving force behind VIBGYOR Group of Schools since its inception, an academician in her felt that the curriculum offered in a large number of schools did not equip children for the demands of the future. She led a team of experts who designed a curriculum for VIBGYOR that has a fine mix of global teaching practices and the Indian curriculum.
The COVID pandemic has drastically changed our everyday lives and this transformation will, quite possibly, be long-term. While the ongoing uncertainty has been challenging for adults, it hasn’t been easy for your children either. Restricted from physical activities and socialising, and coping with learning in a very different manner, children, especially the younger ones, can be particularly overwhelmed.
For more than a year, children have been dealing with many changes, including in their daily routine and the way classes are held. They have also been compelled to forego outdoor recreation with their friends, and many of them may be experiencing insecurities related to their health and safety. At such a time, it becomes important for parents or caregivers to provide them stability, support and a channel for open communication.
Let’s take a look at ways in which you can support your children’s wellbeing, as well as development, in this altered normal:
1. Engage in meaningful conversation
To start with, it is vital that you provide your children with an informed perspective on what is happening, or they will seek answers elsewhere. That could mean getting often-dubious information from peers or social media, which can fuel their worries. Search for information from reliable sources, and if your child is older, guide them on how to look for it themselves.
It is important to demonstrate to your children that you are willing to engage in an honest discussion about any issue that may be bothering or confusing them. If your child does not confide in you proactively, here is how you can initiate the conversation. “COVID-19 is still a new disease; I can understand if you are confused. Do you have any questions about it? If I don’t know the answer, I can try to find it or maybe we could search for it together?” You can also ask them if there is something that is worrying them about COVID-19.
Apart from conversations with parents, children also need regular conversations with their friends and extended family. It is important for you to facilitate virtual playdates for your children with their friends, and to help them connect with extended family members over short video calls. This will be particularly reassuring for them during this time of uncertainty and stress.
2. Ensure continuity of education
A year after physical classes were shut down as a preventive measure to contain the virus spread, we are still unsure about how the future will unfold. To help ensure continuity of education in such times, schools have moved online. They have adapted their pedagogical tools and techniques to the virtual medium so that they can assist children in learning experientially as effectively as they would in physical classes.
It is important that parents do their part in ensuring that their child attends online classes and imbibes the required formal education even during the lockdown. These classes provide children with a strong foundation in important concepts, and a platform to socialise with peers. Thus, deferring their admission at the pre-primary level just because classes are online, may impact the child’s learning curve, in terms of conceptual as well as social skills.
You should encourage your children to not only attend, but engage actively during these classes, and motivate them to participate in the extracurricular activities conducted online to ensure their holistic development from within a safe home environment.
3. Decide how much screen time is reasonable for your child
Classes have moved online and, with no outdoor playtime, children have been restricted to staying at home and playing video games. This may lead to a considerable increase in screen time and can disrupt their normal sleep patterns, contributing to behavioural issues.
While many schools keep a check on students’ screen time, parents also need to suggest to their children that they take regular breaks away from their laptops or mobile phones. You need to first decide how much screen time is reasonable for your child, and then leverage parental controls and daily schedules to help maintain it. It is also a good idea to turn off the screens an hour before bedtime, so they can settle down for undisturbed and timely sleep.
For younger children, it is important that parents encourage them to partake in activities such as arts and crafts, puzzles, and pretend play, which can keep them away from the screen and also help them in developing essential skills.
4. Turn your home and garden into a lab
At a time when children are being forced to stay indoors all day, it is necessary for parents to utilise things and experiences available at home, to teach them various skills.
For instance, you can help them grow an indoor garden, where they can witness the process of the germination of seeds, and their development into plants, over the course of their time at home. This activity is great because it prompts a child to check in daily, record, chart, and analyse the growth of the plant, helping them hone their observation and analytical abilities.
You can also turn your kitchen into a lab. You can invite children to help you cook and bake, open various food items for them to explore inside and out. This will allow them to see at close range the transformation food can undergo in the kitchen. You can also have them read and understand the nutritional value of different foods from the packet, information that will serve them well throughout their lives.
5. Encourage physical activity and sports at home
While recreational activities at your local park may not be possible right now, your children can still enjoy indoor activities that sharpen their motor and cognitive skills. Playing sports teaches children many great life lessons including teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence responsibility, and accountability, besides inculcating values such as ethics, discipline, and mutual trust. If your children’s school is offering sports activities online, encourage them to participate, to help enhance their physical and mental abilities.
In the current times, these physical activities can give children an emotional boost amid uncertainty. And, in the long run, they will impart the skills needed to thrive in the dynamic future.
Children are facing enormous stress due to the prolonged impact of the pandemic. To help them sustain their mental and emotional health during this time, it is vital for parents to be extra-communicative with their children, maintain a regular study and play schedule for them, and provide them support and motivation in various ways.