Coronavirus: how to help children cope during school closures

Educational and child psychologist Dr Michele McDowell gives her advice for managing temporary homeschooling in the event of a shutdown

DR MICHELE McDowell is an educational and child psychologist with over 18 years’ experience of working with children, parents and schools. Below she shares six of the most effective strategies for managing children at home due to school closures because of COVID-19.

Routine 

Even when children are not in school there are benefits to having them stick to a similar school routine. Regularity in routine allows children to know what to expect on a day-to-day basis and encourages them to feel a sense of continuity, stability and security. Following a similar routine and structure to school will allow children to differentiate from a normal school holiday and ease the transition back to school.

Consistency

Maintaining school bedtime and wake-up routines, are important especially at times of high anxiety and change it helps children to feel secure and safe when they have familiar consistent activities.

ADVICE: Dr Michele McDowell

Planning

Your child not being at school does not mean that the school structure cannot be used to plan out the day, in fact it would be empowering for your child to help you make a timetable for the week.

Generally, schools have different topics on different days. So, where possible, this lesson structure should be stuck to. Keeping to the school structure reduces the possibility of stress and anxiety for both parent and child. Everyone knows what comes next, there is indication of transitions, and children feel confident because they are familiar with the structure.

Exercise and sport 

Just because there is structure there should also be ample time for creativity and play. This breaks up the day but also gives you a chance to have some fun.

Exercise and sport should be a part of each day. The benefits of exercise are multiple: enhancing the emotional, physical, mental, intellectual and social well-being of children.

Taking regular breaks are really important for both children and parents to relax and have fun. Using the home activities like laundry etc could be part of the physical activity. 

Lessons

It is likely that schools will send home some homework, check with your child’s school as they may have organised virtual lessons or have a list of websites and books you can use. Also be sure to check that these are being done as this encourages future self-discipline.

Technology 

Most children will be familiar with using: mobile phones, iPads, or the TV, for social media use; including talking to friends, gaming or general entertainment. This is fine in small measures, however, there is increasing evidence indicating that excessive technology can have an adverse impact on young people’s and children’s well-being and cognitive development. Parents may need to monitor their children’s use of technology a little more.

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