It is so important to stay positive during these uncertain times we find ourselves in through this pandemic crisis. I am confident we will come out of this stronger and more unified. I'm proud of the efforts of people working together to help everyone through this unusual time.
Certainly there are positives we can take from staying home. There are plenty of blessings involved in social distancing and schooling at home.
However, there are some negative effects that this time of social distancing and at home learning can bring to our children as well. It would be amiss for us to ignore the real threats that this pandemic can cause for our children and students'. I feel like bringing some of these possible issues to our minds will help us better safeguard the children in our lives. This isn't meant to spread negativity or fear, but to help us be proactive in meeting the children's needs in our communities.
I am an educator, and my life's calling involves an understanding of child development and growth. The biggest part of my job in the classroom is ensuring the wellbeing of my students. In this time of community separation, I am still their teacher and will do everything in my power to support them and help them be the best they can be. I will do my part in my community to continue to impact our students' lives. But, collectively, we need to be aware of possible struggles that can arise in this unprecedented time.
As teachers continue to teach (from a distance) and parents continue to parent (in closer distance and frequency), we must consider these things and be mindful of how to protect our children above all else.
For our children and students:
1. More time at home means more social media exposure. More social media exposure means an increase in self doubt and anxiety. Also, this means the possibility that our children will be inundated with more worldly content that will penetrate their hearts and form their world views. Somehow, limits need to be set on how much time our children are spending on social media. Please do not let them have free reign during this extended time at home. It is ok if they are "bored" and "have nothing to do". Allowing them to spend countless hours on social media will have negative ramifications. If they were at school, that is 8 hours they are not allowed to use it. In my home, my kids will not be allowed on social media during school hours unless it is directly related to their school work.
2. Our children might be more scared than we think. While children are incredibly resilient and adaptable, be sensitive to the fact that they are at an age where wisdom, experience and understanding might not be as readily available for them to navigate through an experience that even adults find scary. Children handle fear differently, with some better than others. There will be children who internalize it in ways that can lead to bigger problems. Check in with your children often through conversation and questions with the aim of allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings openly. Be careful not to talk about situations in front of them if they are not developmentally ready to deal with the weight of it. Hearing that a parent's job is at stake or that shelves are bare or that people are dying can be very alarming for some ages, so use discretion.
3. Inactivity plus more eating can lead to an increase in eating disorders and other negative habits. Don't dismiss this and think it can't happen to your adolescent. Students who are used to being very active in their sports and hobbies now find themselves more sedentary than ever. Combine that with an increase in eating (due to the constant exposure to the pantry and boredom), there is a possibility that negative views of their body will start to set in. This is in part due to not releasing those endorphins, mixed with the natural tendencies of hormonal changes and the adolescent brain. This can lead to extreme behaviors. Be aware and keep an eye on bad habits starting to form. Make sure you are holding them accountable in what they eat as well as spending time moving and being active as best you can. But be very careful how you speak to them. Never put an emphasis on weight or body appearance, but instead put a focus on remaining healthy during this time.
4. Whatever bad situation our children in the community were facing before the pandemic has the potential to be worse and magnified. Abuse (verbal, physical and sexual) could increase. Alcoholism and other addictions could be on the rise. Children could become hungrier. Quite honestly, for some of our children, home is the most dangerous place they can be in. SCHOOL was their safe place. Educators and community members, please take the time to ask the children in your lives: Are you ok? Are you safe? Keep a very close eye for the signs of abuse. Stay connected to parents and support them however you can.
5. When the pandemic ends and it's time to get back out in the world, some children will deal with extreme anxiety. For our kids who are prone to anxiety, being home for this extended time will increase their feeling of safety and might lead to a dependence on the walls of their house. To all of us right now, a real danger literally exits outside of our houses. But, when that danger is gone, to our anxious children, it might only seem greater as they grow used to the safety of home. Inserting themselves back into the world could cause some paranoia that we need to be prepared to walk them through.
6. Bad hygiene and lack of cleanliness can lead to inconvenient and expensive results. Students might not be independently motivated to continue with good habits in their hygiene. An increase in cavities seems to be almost certain! Expect your children to brush their teeth consistently, change dirty clothes, wear deodorant, shower/bathe, etc.
7. Children's brains need to keep growing, but brick and mortar school is not in session. This time of digital learning at home is uncharted waters for some, but the overall goal is not as complex as it might seem: Challenge our children's brains. Teachers all over the country will be dynamic and effective in the way they continue to penetrate our students' brains digitally. Parents all over the country will feel an added burden and pressure to assist in their children's learning in ways they never have and don't feel trained to do. Please don't stress! The overall goal is to engage their brain. Keeping their brain thinking, through the assignments and activities provided by their teachers, is a positive thing. It won't be perfect, and that is ok. The way the brain grows is through challenge. You can also help their brains grow through puzzles, creative projects, games, classical music, etc. Play Chess! If you don't know how, learn together! Lay a puzzle out! Create! Make! Solve problems! Master the Rubik's cube! Find logic puzzles to complete! Listen to music that is composed in ways that our brain works to understand!
Teachers, we continue to have the job to teach our grade level standards to our students, but do not neglect our highest priority, which is to ensure their overall wellbeing. Only when they are healthy and safe can they really learn anyways.
Community, we are all charged to protect and serve our children. Be mindful and aware of how this pandemic affects them, and do your part to help them make it through to the other side.
Parents, you were chosen to be your child's mom or dad. This responsibility is not to be taken lightly! Parenting during a pandemic is hard. This stinks. But that doesn't change the fact that we are the adult, and our kids need us. Have the resolve to be their greatest teacher, protector and helper of all. You can do it! Please reach out for help! We are in this together.