We are all navigating a new reality as we adjust our daily lives to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of us may be balancing having children at home and working remotely. This month’s author, Esther McCant, is an expert at having children in the home throughout the day, as she homeschools her three sons while she balances life as a birth and postpartum doula, Hypnobirthing-trained childbirth educator and certified lactation counselor. Esther offers readers a few ideas on how best to manage life with children off school for an indeterminate length of time.
If you are at home with children, you may be struggling. It can be difficult to keep children engaged all day, let alone try to do your own job remotely. Want to avoid scrambling for activities, improve your relationship and increase your involvement so your child can return to school motivated? Here are five things you can do before your child heads back to school.
L.A.B.O.R. is Not Just for Pregnant Moms
As a doula and childbirth educator, I couldn’t help but create a birth-related acronym. I hope it helps you remember what you need to do during long breaks at home to help your child excel academically when he or she returns to school.
- Be present
L is for LISTEN
Hopefully, you have had opportunities to ask your child, “How is school?” before this break began. If you have an idea of what challenges and joys they feel about school, it will help you know what to work on in this time at home. It might be a good idea to try to find out directly from their teachers how your children are doing in school. Make it a point to check in by arranging a virtual conference at least two weeks before the break ends to have their teachers answer your questions.
Take advantage of the downtime and let your child speak. Actively listen by repeating what they said mentally as they speak. Allow them to tell you about their favorite or not-so-favorite things about school and their classmatess. If you run out of questions, try these compelling questions that require more than a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
A is for ADVOCATE
I first encountered advocacy when my firstborn enrolled in a childcare center. The director was a mom whose children went on to attend prestigious universities across the country. She became my parenting mentor by teaching me to arm myself with resources, ask questions, and demand the best for my children in their learning environment.
I learned how to speak up so that my children would never receive inadequate academic support in any learning setting. She was excellent and encouraged me to focus on simple things I can do at home to help my child become an avid learner. So far, it works!
Advocates don’t have to start or end every conversation with confrontation. For instance, I advocate for my child whenever I manage our healthy eating habits, keep up with regular appointments with our healthcare providers, and carefully manage our stress.
Remember, you’re the first and best advocate for your child so learn to advocate well. Through the Coronavirus changes, that might mean reaching out to your child’s teacher to be sure your child isn’t missing any important lessons or assignments. If you don’t have a home computer or internet, you can advocate for your child by reaching out to the school district to help your family get set up for online learning. If your children need the lunches usually provided by school, you can advocate for them by finding out where the school is providing lunches and picking them up for the family.
B is for BE PRESENT
After 9 years of parenting, I realize that it requires a certain hustle and bustle to maintain a work-school routine with your kids. Although we are facing a different kind of school break, there is a silver lining to this change: having more time to be present with our children in the coming weeks.
This is a prime opportunity for you to take advantage of a change in the pace of your family’s routine and capitalize on making the most of the time you have together.
According to Samuel Louis, MS, EDS, “Prioritize work. Prioritize play.” It is definitely going to be imperative to complete homework or projects, but don’t forget to give your student a chance to play.
Make sure you stop and play with your child. If they’re not seeing you eye-to-eye on things, you may have to get on their level. Literally, face them head-on at a fun game of chess or physical activity outside. If you want to reinforce some structured family time with your child, try some games from the MDCPS Recess Manual.
O is for OBTAIN
Parents are the family caregivers, and it is easy for some priorities to be shifted and placed on the back burner. However, you must be sure those priorities that give you life, help you feel balanced and fuel you to be an emotionally intelligent parent to your child are not neglected, especially with the elevated levels of stress we all feel now.
You may need to obtain some time for self-care, to read a book, watch a favorite show, exercise, or have a bath. Whatever it may take to make it happen, start simple with one change and get it going now. You’ll find that as your new habit sticks, adding other habits on a bi-weekly basis will be much easier.
R is for REDIRECT
The job of the parent is seemingly endless at times and children have no boundaries as to when you have “clocked out” for the day unless… you have a backup to whom you can redirect your children’s attention.
A backup can be found in the village of supportive people who know and love you and your child. It is incredibly important in today’s society. With social distancing, our backups are not so available. We might be social isolating in different homes and unable to count on the support we often turn to, and so what can we do?
Consider reaching out and redirecting the responsibility of parenting on occasion through phone and video calls. Give grandparents, friends, and other family members a chance to entertain the kids. Set them up with a game of pictionary over video chat, or let them loose with a karaoke session. Even though we are physically distant from one another, we can still help each other through this using digital tools.
Redirecting your children to take ownership of their personal time is a great way to spend the break time. Take some time to make a wish list of things that each member of your family would like to do with their free time. Just be sure to check in the local municipality where you live to ensure that free time is conducted during approved timeframes and before curfews. For a list of activities that are quarantine-friendly visit this local resource.
About the Author
Esther McCant is a homeschooling mom of four boys, owner of Metro Mommy Agency, a birth and postpartum doula, Hypnobirthing trained childbirth educator and certified lactation counselor. She has spent over 9 years using her personal and professional development to contribute to the wellness of her society and advocate for families. Esther currently serves as the co-chair for the Healthy Baby Taskforce, a subcommittee of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade Children’s Issues Committee. She is one of the newest contributors for the Miami Moms Blog. Esther is committed to networking and collaborating with various organizations from non-profits to social services to ensure that all families have a great start from conception, pregnancy, birth and beyond. To connect with Esther, visit www.MetroMommyAgency.com.