Although this back-to-school season looks different for families all over the country, there’s no denying that the new school year is here. And whether you’re opting into in-person learning for your little ones, staying remote, a combination of both or maybe even still unsure, we’re all in this together. Since this school year is starting out unlike any other, I’m combining my experience as a mom of two, a primary educator for 14 years and ideas from my teacher resource site, Education with an Apron, to share simple tips to help families balance their new routines.
We have all experienced screen fatigue as adults so we can definitely imagine the impact that screen fatigue has little children! In order to combat this, we must allow our children to take breaks when they need to. I am thinking about virtual learning both from the position of a teacher and a mom, and while I would love for all of my students to be dressed, ready, and sitting up at attention for our virtual lessons, I also understand that they are little children. For so many people, this virtual learning experience might be a temporary solution until face-to-face learning resumes. To me, that means that we do the very best that we can. So, when I am teaching virtually and I see a little kiddo getting squirmy, I try to extend grace because I understand that this is probably a difficult thing for them to have to sit through for such a long time! Pay attention to your child… Read their nonverbal cues and if they need to take a break… You're the parent! Take fifteen minutes for a quick snack break of their favorite Juicy Juice 100% juice box (let them pick their favorite flavor!) or maybe it’s just a quick walk around the block. It’s just enough time for them to reset before heading back to the screen for the day. Their mental health is critical during this time!
Maintaining social skills while social distancing is tricky for all of us. Depending on your comfort level, you may be able to do some safe play date meet ups or social gatherings. If you are staying completely virtual, reach out to your child's teacher and ask them to compile a list of names of children that would be willing to have virtual play dates. That can simply mean putting their device in the playroom and having playtime together! They can have challenges over the screen like who can build the highest tower, but the idea would be that as they play, they would also be chatting with each other. They can ask each other questions - they can laugh, joke, and enjoy the company of someone else their age who is also going through virtual learning.
If you find your children losing motivation when it comes to schooling, try to spark excitement and interest by asking them specific questions about what they are doing and learning in school. Be sure to listen carefully and take an interest in what they are saying. Then, you can prompt them by saying "I can't wait to see how that turns out" or "what is the next book you’re reading in class?" Not only will this encourage your child to talk about their experience, they will see that you were interested in their learning as well and that might make them more engaged and motivated to continue!
Ease back into a back-to-school season routine! If your children have been depending heavily on screens for entertainment, staying up later than normal, or not doing a ton of academic work (no judgment there... I'm basically describing my home during quarantine!) then quitting all of those things cold turkey may not give you the results you're hoping for. I recommend selecting one goal that needs to be kicked into gear per week until you see success. For example, we knew that we needed to tighten up our after-school routine. When our kids came home, they quickly wanted to grab snacks and screens. We knew that we needed to do some course correcting, so we decided to get snacks pre-portioned out with a schedule on the fridge, so they knew what to grab! On the rotation now is a glass of Kiwi Strawberry Juicy Juice 100% juice paired with yogurt, a granola bar or pretzels. Since our kids are going to school in-person, we’re trying to limit non-school screen time. So, the following week, we decreased fun screen time until we got to the point where screens were only allowed on weekends. The slow rollout for routine improvement really helped us to see success!
As a kindergarten teacher and mom of two littles, I’m always looking for ways to take some tasks off of my plate. We started to use grocery drop off/pick up services to save a little time! Also, everyone in the family is taking on more of an active role. For example, that might mean that the partner in the family that typically doesn’t know what’s on the calendar now shares that task so that important dates and events don’t slip through the cracks. Or, your kids now have the responsibility of setting the table - plates, silverware, napkins and of course, the family favorite, Juicy Juice. We’ve also leaned on our family and friends in ways that we have not in the past. This can be difficult for so many parents that feel like we have to do it all...use your village!
I love the word “yes.” When my children ask to do something, wear something, or play something...if it’s in my power to say “yes,” then I do! I want them to feel like they have some control when the world seems to be changing daily. For me that means letting them select their own clothes or even giving them a little more control in their daily schedule. My children also learned how to pack their own lunches during quarantine so they can keep this up whether they are at home for distance learning or back in the classroom. We decided to put their lunch items, snacks, and Juicy Juice 100% juice boxes in places that are accessible for their tiny hands!
This is near to me since I hold space as a veteran teacher and concerned parent. I understand what it means to deal with distance learning at home or send my child into a school that I’m not allowed to step foot into. It’s tough stuff! On the other hand, I know what it is to be the teacher under pressure - especially during this unprecedented time. When it comes to your childrens’ teachers: assume the best intentions, be understanding. This is new for everyone. Be flexible and remember - the whole world is going through this. We are winning with each passing day!
Self-care is critical. Self-care is proactive. Self-care is so much deeper than a relaxing bubble bath. For me personally, self-care is even cleaning the bathtub after the relaxing bubble bath because I know that a dirty space might be a trigger for stress later! In a world that is ever connected, it’s also easy to compare yourself to others. Don’t! This is one of the fast ways to trigger stress and anxiety- and for me, that is the opposite of self-care. We are all on our own journey. Remember social media is a highlight reel and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.