As the world continues to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, many schools across the United States are closing. This leaves parents with a problem. Of course, we want our children to be safe and protected.
Current reports show that children contract only mild symptoms from the virus, but the goal is to prevent the contagion from reaching the wider community. It’s been reported that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, and it can easily be passed from healthy individuals to those who are more at risk.
While schools are closing for days, weeks, or an undetermined amount of time, parents are faced with a unique challenge. How do we explain what’s happening to our kids, and how do we prevent school closures from negatively affecting their education? Marisa Porges, head of an all-girls school outside of Philadelphia, recently shared her suggestions with New York Times. Here’s a breakdown of what she has to say, plus other suggestions from parents and educators.
Start With An Explanation
Even if your child isn’t asking specific questions, it’s important to explain exactly why their school has closed. You don’t need to break out the charts, infographics, or maps, but they deserve an honest explanation. Simply explain to your family in age-appropriate terms that the school wants to help protect the community as a whole from the contagious virus. Tell them that the chance of them getting seriously sick is extremely low, and school closures are simply a precaution. Porges also says,
“Since many schools have unclear timelines for when they will reopen, it’s also important to reinforce that, in the grand scheme of things, even a few weeks off will one day be a ‘remember when’ story and nothing more.”
Maintain A Regular Routine
Starting the school closure with a fun day off is a good way to avoid panic, but you don’t want your kids to slip too far into vacation mode. Schools are structured around specific routines that help keep students focused and engaged. There are several studies out there that show having a daily routine is beneficial for everyone in the family, especially kids.
Instead of letting your kids spend their unscheduled days off playing video games and watching Netflix, enforce a daily routine to keep them on track. Make sure they’re out of bed at a decent hour, serve meals at the same time every day, and schedule in activities and breaks. If you need to, write the new routine down and put it on the fridge.
Keep Up With Academics
Some schools are sending students home with assignments, and others have arranged for a type of cyber school to continue with their lessons. But if your student’s class has no plans to keep up with their education, that responsibility unfortunately falls to the parents.
You don’t need to go full-on homeschool, but your kids will benefit from at least some educational activities throughout the day. There are plenty of resources online including PBS Kids, CoolMath, and Fun Brain. School closures are also a great opportunity to encourage casual reading. You could even let your kids choose what they want to learn about. Ask them to pick a topic and spend their time away from school completing a project of their choosing.
If you’re struggling, there’s a good chance that other parents are, too. There’s no reason why you can’t join forces and work together. Do it remotely via phone calls and FaceTime if you feel that’s best, but partnering could help ease this difficult time. Parents can share project ideas, online resources, and even baby sitting duties. Simply having someone to vent to can be extremely cathartic and helpful.
Obviously, no one knows what the future is surrounding coronavirus. School closures might last only a few days, or they might go on longer. Either way, we don’t want our kids to suffer. Working parents are especially feeling the stress, and it’s important for all of us to work together to help our communities.