Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Poe Center for Health Education’s website. The Poe Center has launched a virtual series of programs this fall for kids and families that are aimed at keeping us healthy, active and engaged.
It’s August, and no matter how different it may look this year, that means it’s back to school and back to business. But it won’t be business as usual. COVID-19 has created many complicated situations for students and their families.
Whether you normally look forward to this time of year or wish the summer would never end, those feelings are most likely not the same this year. As many North Carolina schools are opening with some version of remote learning, chances are you will likely need to be extra involved in your child’s day-to-day education. If you are feeling nervous, stressed, excited, or all of the above, you are not alone! It’s OK to feel that way. This is new and potentially overwhelming for many families.
It’s important to remember that YOU’VE GOT THIS!
You have been teaching your children for years. You likely taught them how to tie their shoes, how to treat others with respect, how to follow a schedule, how to make themselves a snack — the list of lessons is long. Remote schooling may not feel the same, but the concepts absolutely still apply. You know your children better than anyone else, and you have already taught them so much. Plus, you are not alone. Teachers and school staff, along with other families and the community, are also navigating this new space alongside you.
Here are a few general tips for creating an environment for successful remote learning:
It will be easy to dip into frustration and impatience, and your children will take hints from you, so try to keep things positive as much as possible. Spin the situation and show them how to be grateful for this chance to spend more time together.
It’s perfectly understandable for kids to be completely bummed out and even anxious. Give your kids the opportunity to express their feelings and let them know you understand. Recognizing and validating your children’s feelings is an important step in helping them cope with the circumstances.
Communicate with your children’s schools and teachers to be clear about the learning expectations and know what resources are available for parents. Remember, you are not alone, and you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
Know Your Child
Find out what your children need to learn best: Are they visual, kinetic and/or auditory learners? Do they like independent work or collaborative projects. Do they need silence or music playing quietly in the background? This is a great opportunity to help your children create a learning environment customized for them.
Understand that not every day will be a good one, for your children or for you. It’s OK to not be OK all the time. Be willing to be flexible with goals and schedules when necessary. Include “catch-up days” in your original schedules to allow for any mental health adjustments that need to be made as you go. Be happy with the progress and avoid perfection. And always know that it’s OK to reach out for help when you need it.
Create Healthy Habits
Use a schedule to keep wake-up, bedtime, education, play, quiet, rest, and free times consistent. Set aside a designated area just for “school” and keep it separate from the rest of the home and life spaces. Take scheduled breaks for healthy snacks, movement, hydration, bathroom, meditation and mindfulness. Make clear and realistic goals for each day, week and month.
Seize natural teaching moments to build health education into at-home academics. Here are a few ideas to help:
MyPlate. Eating healthy is an important part of both academic success and lifelong general health. Incorporate nutrition education into your routine by using MyPlate to demonstrate making healthy food choices every day. Use these videos from the Poe Center as a starting point.
Physical Activity. Kids should get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Include lots of movement breaks throughout the day to help keep children engaged and awake, such as taking walks, jumping rope, stretching, etc. Learn about the different levels of activity and try this “Eat the Rainbow” challenge as a family.
Brain Breaks. Breaks are so important for optimal academic success. Children’s brains are wired to learn but they need breaks (and you do too)! Learn why these breaks are so necessary, including some short breathing techniques and other exercises.
Gardening. This is a chance to get creative with health education. Teach your children about where food comes from by trying some at-home gardening. Check out these videos for tips gardening at home.
Poe Center. Check out the Poe Center’s list of educational, fun, and useful resources along with local and state-wide information to help you stay active, healthy – and sane – during this unprecedented time.
COVID-19 has created many complicated challenges and situations — especially for the school year. Going back to school will be different and probably not ideal. Try to stay positive, embrace the time spent learning with your children, and know that the Poe Center is here to support you.