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5 Tips For Keeping Your Kids Emotionally Well and Academically Stimulated

by AMY KENNEDY

As a former public school teacher and a mother of five kids, I know how hard it can be to figure out what to do when staying home with your kids while you’re social distancing. Many parents are now responsible not just for taking care of but also for educating their children while schools are closed. And many of us are also working remotely from home. These are really tough jobs that we’re being asked to do, and it’s having an impact: Even in March, seven in ten adults told pollsters they were feeling personal stress and worry over the virus, and nearly eight in ten said their lives had been disrupted.

It’s important to remember that emotional well-being–both for you and for your children–is just as important as education. Here are five things I recommend doing to help keep yourself and your children emotionally well and academically stimulated as we navigate this brave new world of social distancing.

Keep a Routine 

Keeping things scheduled and as close to what your kids have done in the past as possible is key. Having a routine will help your kids if they’re feeling anxious about all of the changes, and it will help ease your own stress level. Don’t worry about coming up with a two-hour block of material; rather, think of activities that may take just 15 minutes that you can vary.

And let yourself off the hook a bit. Especially at a scary and unfamiliar time, kids (and all of us) crave the familiar. Is their favorite food pizza? Great! Feel free to serve it. Do they want to watch an episode of their favorite show, even during the day? Go for it. Comfort food and TV time really are okay, so long as you also find ways to keep them physically active and exercising. It will let them come back refreshed and help them be more focused, and it will let you take a much-needed (small) break. 

Find engaging (and educational) activities that aren’t school-related 

While staying at home, kids are not going to be able to sit still and focus on schoolwork for hours at a time—and frankly, they shouldn’t. So when planning activities for them, remember: this time doesn’t have to be 100 percent focused and serious. School isn’t, either!

Try to find nontraditional activities that will keep their minds working. You could give them sudoku puzzles or play a card game. You could have them read something fun, like the Sunday comics. You can bake brownies with them and use it as a way to talk about math–using fractions to measure out ingredients or doubling a recipe together.

Make your kids feel like they’re helping 

This is a confusing and scary time. If your children are anxious about what’s going on, a great way to help ease that anxiety is to find ways to help them feel like they’re making a difference. If your child likes to craft, have them make cards for healthcare workers, or help them make a DIY face mask. (Jo-Ann craft stores are giving away free materials to make masks, if you don’t have materials on hand.) You can even just do something small, like donating a meal on GrubHub to a healthcare worker as a family. Or you can have your child reach out to a relative, like a grandparent, just to check in. 

Offer support where you can 

Many parents are going through the same challenges as you, and some are going through even tougher ones. Parents of children with special needs might be facing a loss of school resources they’ve been relying on. Other parents may not have the technology available to help support their children’s schooling to the extent needed. Think about the ways you can support parents who are going through these challenges, like donating an old tablet or computer your family doesn’t use anymore, or sharing good educational material you’ve found.

You don’t need to do it all alone 

These new roles can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Reach out to your children’s teachers or other teachers you know in your life. Teachers want to be supportive and many of them can provide you with online help or resources. You can also supplement what you’re doing with programs you can find online. There’s a lot going on. Continually remind yourself that it’s okay if you can’t do it all yourself.

This essay was featured in the May 3rd edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.

AMY KENNEDY

Amy Kennedy is the Education Director of The Kennedy Forum where she pursues partnerships and collaborations that emphasize evidence-based research and programming to facilitate policy change in the areas of education and mental health. An educator by training, Amy has more than a decade of experience working in public schools in New Jersey. Her experiences as a teacher and as a mother of five propel her efforts and advocacy around social-emotional learning and mental wellness for children and adolescents. She is currently running for Congress in South Jersey.

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