Distance learning in the time of Chovid-19 is like nothing we've experienced before. We are living history whether we like it our not. We are also living with our children, partners, and other family members 24/7 with tensions running high and little space for healthy outlets ... add in the responsibility of work and school and we all need a little help!
I'm here to give you some tools to help you tackle this Distance Learning thing! It will give you simple, manageable tools you can use to bolster your connection with your child, support them while they do hard things and set you up for support as you do hard things!
#1 -- begin your day with a routine.
Keep it simple and flexible. Begin with a list of 3-5 tasks that need to be completed before the "day" begins. Include the basics like getting dressed, brushing teeth, brushing hair, making beds, etc. Pick 3-4 that are MUST DO's for you and your family. Then add to that routine: Special Time. I'll talk about what it is, how to set it up, and why it helps later on. For now let me give you an example of what a routine might look like in my house:
7:30- Dress, Brush Teeth and Hair, Breakfast
8:00 - Special Time (5-15min each)
9:00 - Learning Block 1
9:30 - Movement Break/Outside/Play
9:45 - Learning Block 2
10:15 - Snack and Free Time/Outside time
11:00 - Learning Block 3
11:20 - Break
11:30 - Learning Block 4
Noon - Clean -Up/Lunch
1:00: Free Time
2:00: Individual Reading Time/ Puzzles/ Quiet Games
3:00: Screen Time
4:00: Outside Play
This example leaves plenty of wiggle room for things that come up. Younger kids may only need two short learning blocks to complete their tasks while older kids may need more blocks after lunch. The main idea behind this is a routine for predictability with flexibility to meet your needs, your childs' needs, and your families needs. This routine can be developed with your own priorities and family values in place.
Now lets explore Special Time in that routine. Special Time in a nut shell is this --
One on One time with one parent and one child. Families with more than one child have to get creative as to what the other child(ren) is(are) doing while they wait.
Set a Time for an amount of time YOU choose (anywhere from 2 or 3 minutes to 20 minutes depending on whats available and what your bandwidth is on that given day).
Let the child lead -- DON'T SAY NO! Do what the child wants to do, even if it makes you uncomfortable. (within reason and only saying No to actually unsafe things like playing catch with the kitchen knives).
Put ALL distractions away! Phones away, laundry stays on the floor, no picking the cat hair off the couch. Really give your child your FULL ATTENTION and notice what they are doing. Its helpful to me when I narrate - "Oh wow, you put the blue block on the yellow block". I try to avoid "praise", they didn't ask to be judged, they want to be seen.
Why is this important and what does it do?
This sets you and your child up for success. Brain science and research tells us that we function most optimally when we are in our thinking brains (prefrontal cortex). We get to our prefrontal cortex when we feel SAFE and CONNECTED. Special Time gives space for both safety and connection. Children who are connected are more likely to cooperate. Cooperation is what we want to begin our day with -- right!? Its like putting gas in the car, its only going to go where you want it to go if you spend the time filling it up!! Same idea. Fill your kids bucket first thing in the morning! You'll be surprised how much it fills your bucket too!
#2 Leave space for the struggle
What I mean here is that we are in unprecedented times. There are more stressors, less social interaction, less physical touch, less connection with other humans and more uninterrupted time with our children. So there is bound to be more struggle! By leaving space (ie time) for the struggle we take some of the pressure away.
Let me give you an example to clarify what it could* look like.
Say at 9am its time to get your 8 year old online to begin his school work for the day. He starts to get upset about wanting to continue playing his game. This is where you can leave time for the struggle. Instead of brushing past that feeling, move in close, repeat something like, "I know its hard to leave your toys to do your school work." Then listen to the feelings that come up. This is where you can leave some time for him to cry, maybe get angry or yell/tantrum about the school work. Its totally normal for him to have that feeling and express it! Having you listen to it will be validating and in most cases thats all you'll need to do. Listen to how he feels about the limit and expectation being put in place. Once the feelings have come and gone, hold the limit and get on with the tasks at hand. Your child will know you love them even when they aren't feeling loveable.
I mean I have that feeling every time I have to put down what I'm doing to go make dinner.
I'd love if someone sat with me while I complained about having to make dinner every night while lovingly listening to me rant/rage about it. Wouldn't that be great!?
Feelings are like waves - they come, they crash, and they leave. When we try to brush past them they don't go away, instead they build up inside of us. By leaving time/space for the struggle we give our kids permission to feel the feelings, sit with them while those scary feelings crash, and support them as the feelings fade and they can get on with their required tasks. Learning is hard, online school is hard, not seeing their friends is hard! Its all hard! We can leave space for those feelings and create a supportive learning environment for our children.
#3 -- Don't forget about yourself
After reading about all the time, effort, and love you'll need to give your children to help them be successful, you might be feeling pretty drained yourself. Listening to children through play (special time) and listening to their tears and tantrums takes a lot of conscious thought and energy. Without taking the time to set ourselves up for success we will be hard pressed to set our children up for success. So make a plan to fill your bucket. Do some self care - whatever that means to you. For me its prioritizing my own sleep (I'm not a fun person with less than 8-9 hours of sleep... I know I know), drinking water, and most importantly my "network".
This is a small list of people who I can call or text when Im feeling my steam running out. We are Listening Partners - we listen to each other vent, cry, and laugh ( and every other emotion in between). We define our relationship with firm boundaries - we trade equal amounts of time. So say I reach out and ask how much time they might have. They say they've got 20 minutes so we exchange and listen to each other for 10 minutes each. After I listen I ask a question that takes their mind off their "problems" and into the present moment. Then we switch and I get to be listened to. Its a simple relationship and has brought so much support into my life. Its like a parenting 911. Someone who wont judge me for my feelings and knows the hard work of parenting.
You can ask friends or family members to become your listening partners and explain to them what you'd like to do. If they agree then set it up and get started. You can also use Hand in Hands parenting network to find other parents also looking for this kind of support. If you're interested in doing so. I can set you up!!
Parenting and schooling in these times is not easy. I hope these three tips help you and your kids come out better than you went in!
Routine -- based in connection using Special Time
Leave room for the struggle - listen to those tears and tantrums throughout the day
Get support for yourself
All of these tools are based around Hand in Hand Parenting 5 Listening Tools for parents. For more information head to handinhandparenting.org or shoot me a message @growingoodness(insta) or firstname.lastname@example.org.