Children all across Canada are at home, and there is no telling if and when they will be heading back to school this year. This has left parents with the daunting task of occupying, and even teaching, their children while they are not in school. While most teachers did not send their children home with schoolwork, many schools have used online platform to help parents continue their children’s education at home. That being said, physical distancing and making sure families are safe and healthy should remain parent’s main priority.
So, how are parents coping with the new stress of having kids at home 24/7? How are the kids dealing with not being able to go to school, see their friends, and sometimes even leave the house?
Lindsay Verhoeven lives in the north end of Brockville with her husband and three children. She has a 10-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, and a 21-year-old daughter who also has a child of her own. All of them are off school, including her eldest who is attending TR Leger School to finish some of her high school credits. “She was going to graduate in May,” Lindsay says. “But now she can’t take any of her exams.”
She says that the realization that they were in it for the long haul came after March break ended. Although they couldn’t go anywhere over the scheduled holiday, she let her kids sleep in and enjoy the less structured days that they usually enjoyed at this time of year. “March break was not too bad,” she says.
Since March break ended, Lindsay has tried to implement some more structure and impose some expectations on her children for the day. “I want them up and dressed in pants with zippers,” she says, adding that although it’s the goal, it doesn’t always happen. “Coping comes with a sense of humour.”
Lindsay has been trying to implement some structured and unstructured learning into the day, particularly for her 10 and 12-year-olds. She uses multiplication flash cards to help them learn their times tables and says it has been a fun way to help them keep on top of their math skills. “It’s quick and I have already seen an improvement”.
Their days are also filled with activities like baking, crafts, reading, drawing with chalk on the driveway, and walking the dog around the neighbourhood. Facetime and video chat have also been instrumental in helping the kids keep in touch with their friends. “The kids are disappointed not to be going back to school,” she says. “They miss their friends, and are missing that structure.”
A lot of the teachers have been going above and beyond to help parents keep their children engaged in learning at home. “They are trying to make themselves and resources available,” according to Lindsay. “They are doing more than their work to rule to try to provide options.”
She feels that, while structure and learning is important, so is a happy household. She has been as open as she can in letting her children know the severity of what is happening worldwide. “I believe in age-appropriate honesty,” she says. “I have explained what is going on and that we don’t have to be terrified, but we do have to do things to save lives.
Bethany Andress is also from Brockville and has a 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl. She is also trying to put in place some structured learning for her son who is in Kindergarten, but is also trying not to be too strict with it. He has been helping his father outside with yard work, like building a new fire pit, and she has been using Pinterest a lot to come up with ideas for activities and crafts. When his younger sister goes down for a nap, she usually plays a game that involves numbers, or something else that will help him keep up to date what he had been learning in JK. “I’m lucky, because he is only in Kindergarten,” she says. “I don’t know how parents with older kids are coping.”
As someone who had a stroke ten months ago, Bethany is immuno-compromised and makes sure she is out in public as little as possible. She is also concerned about her children’s health and safety when it comes to COVID-19. “It’s very tiring in a weird sense,” she says. “I am constantly worrying.”
Bethany says it helps her to shut off the news and get off social media where everyone is constantly being bombarded by everything COVID-19 related. “I’m trying to get back to simpler things,” she says. “The little joys that we used to do before technology.”
Overall, she is happy that they live in a rural area where they can limit the people they come into contact with. Her family is healthy, and she is thankful for that. “I am reminding myself that they are healthy children,” she says. “But I am still giving them extra vitamins.”
Are you a parent who is trying to cope with fears of COVID-19 and having your kids at home? Let us know what you are doing to keep them occupied and stay sane.