Guest post by Shahnaaz Omarjee
The coronavirus has shaken our world and as parents, our main concern are our children. Where do we go to from here and where do our children fit into all of this? Decisions are being made towards home schooling/remote learning or some type of digital communication to facilitate education at this time, but its important for us to stop and think about the impact its all having on our little ones.
Firstly, assess your individual situation, are you and your husband working from home, have you put any thought into how you are going to balance it all and how has your family adapted to that change in dynamics.
Secondly, what type of information are you exposing your family to and is it authentic? It’s important to raise awareness to this virus and educate our children but regular updates on the crisis and death tolls are only going to heighten their anxiety. Reflect on what they are being exposed to, I’ve come across families abroad where their little ones are genuinely concerned that they may not see their grandparents again. We need to be mindful as to what they absorb.
Thirdly, schools may send learning material home and while some children will thrive with online lessons, others may need reassurance, as they deal with the anxiety from all the the news around them. We’re dealing with a world crisis and these are little bodies with big emotions. Be realistic with the amount of activities you’re expecting from your children. Their mental health is more important than any assessment standard or lesson objectives and for most children just having parents home is the constant they need to feel psychologically safe.
As a teacher, my advice is to expose your children to only about twenty minute intervals of screen time, if school tasks are obligatory, and follow it with a brain break activity. This will help with their engagement and keep it ‘byte’ size for you as a parent as well. If you have the time, don’t be afraid to divert from the plan and use these learning opportunities to unlock your child’s potential. Having said that, don’t feel like you have to turn your house into a Montessori, use what you have and allow your children to get creative too. Creativity is really the brain child of boredom. Use this time to pause and play with them. Really play with them. Involve them in chores around the house and encourage them to be responsible. Create new family traditions, even if it’s sitting together after Maghrib and reading silently. Have fun with “taalim and tea”, do some ramadaan crafts or create simple goals. Listen to their stories, read that “one more book” and watch their personalities light up.
Don’t think of it as if they are losing out or will be “behind”. What if instead of “behind” this group of kids are advanced because of this? Hear me out. What if they have more empathy, they enjoy more family connection, they can be more creative, what if they turn out to love reading or they love to express themselves through writing?” (Neurochild)
Alhamdulillah this will be the silver lining. None of us saw this crisis coming and none of us are experts in knowing how to deal with this either as we’ve never faced anything like this before. We can only make the most of this time, keep it simple, be present, help the world and do your part to stay apart.
Shahnaaz Omarjee is a free range Muslimah in Abu Dhabi. She is a kindergarten teacher / digital coach and Apple Professional Learning Specialist. She is on a journey to help change education towards developing passionately curious children around the world.