Its easier to just stop, completely. Confined within your home. No contact with the outside world except through the tiny windows we call smartphones. No accountability. No structured routines. No nagging teachers. No homework. No exams. Well not entirely. I’m a university student so I wasn’t exempt. Everything else still applied. Only exam pressure kept me going, and anyone else in higher education for that matter. What about those who didn’t? The other 11.67 million kids in the UK? Or the 1.3 billion school children worldwide? What was their motivation to carry on learning during this Pandemic? When you put it that way, it is easier to just stop, right? Stop learning completely. Wake up at 3 pm, stay in bed, binge watch a series, and eat ice cream until 3 am. I say no. The easier option is to just give up and wait till things reset in September, but I say no to this. Not just as a parent but as a community, we should say no to this.
“When there’s an event with significant trauma or loss and ongoing community disruption, there is an extended period of time where learning is affected,” says Lisa Gibbs, director of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program at the University of Melbourne.
Keeping children focused while they continue to study yet provide them with productive activities is difficult. However, according to Dr. Kathryn Weston, CEO of Tooled Up Education, this can also be a great opportunity to teach your children life skills. Although the current situation with coronavirus can cause stress and anxiety for them, it is important that parents keep calm and positive.
Parents must model a sense of hope and positivity, as hard as that is. Teaching children about emotional resilience can help them to learn areas of life they can control in uncertain times.
These are my top 3 ways to get your kids (and even yourself) motivated during these troubled times:
1. Involve children in setting schedules
When children take an active part in creating routines and schedules, they’re more like to accept & follow them. It changes from something they’re told they must follow, to something they designed themselves. No one likes following rules they had no say in, not even adults!
To involve children, set up a family meeting. Discuss the schedule and ask for their input on decisions like what time everyone should be out of bed, dressed, when to break from schoolwork, when the working day ends, etc.
Not every idea will work – kids may feel being dressed by noon is fine! But study shows when parents listen to a child’s ideas, it helps them subconsciously moderate own their behavior & engage more in what they are doing.
There will be differences in opinion. Negotiate with your children so that at least some of their ideas are adopted. Conflict resolution is an important skill for children to learn, and they learn it best from their parents.
2. The importance of exercise
Exercise is not only important for physical health but also paramount for mental health. This has been my number 1 motivator during the pandemic. I’ve become a local, at my local park!
According to official NHS guidance, there are two types of physical activity that children and young people need to do each week to stay healthy. The first being aerobic exercise such as running and secondly exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones. Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for at least one day across the week.
Furthermore, aim to reduce the time their children spend sitting and lying down. Break up lengths of time they spend not moving with some form of activity such as walking, bike riding or my favourite, chores.
3. REJECT Perfection
Given the stress of a pandemic, relax expectations for your child (and yourself). Try to focus on small positive steps daily. Keep a watchful eye on your child’s health and wellbeing. Place their basic needs before academic attainment. There will be plenty of time to catch up when all this is over. Trust me.
Focus on effort, not outcomes. If your child does well on a test, don’t just share excitement over the grade alone. There are more helpful ways to give praise (click on the link to find out how). Engage self-reflection, did they deserve to receive that grade based on the effort they put in? Can anything be done differently next time? Do the same when they don’t do well. Reflecting on how they approached studying may help them discover other ways to do it next time. Motivating them to try a new approach.
Find your best worst-case scenario as a family, which will be far from perfect. Just do what you can.
Finally, while parents may be anxious to ensure that their children are learning at home, they are advised not to place too much emphasis on doing academic work: “Parents and carers are not teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.” A quote from me.
To find out more on how you can be an asset to your child, follow this link: I want to help!