State of the COVID Crisis – August 25, 2020

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The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the disease itself and the walls of our facilities. With the start of a new school year, many adults are feeling the anticipation of being responsible for their child’s education, in addition to a school year that looks different than ever before – this may take its own toll.

That’s why we want to take this week’s ‘State of COVID’ update to share some tips from a recent HealthQuest featuring Dr. Patrick Shea, our own pediatric psychiatrist and UCSF Fresno faculty member, to help you and your family during this challenging school year.

Adjust your expectations – for you and your children. Whatever your situation, whether homeschooling or online studies, it is hard to replicate the academic rigor experienced in a normal classroom. Recognize that most likely you aren’t an expert in social studies, math, science and literature – and that’s okay. Your main goal is to keep children engaged and up-to-date with school work. Remember: Teachers are working during this time. Use them as a resource and lean on them to help you with the curriculum – they are the content experts.

Dedicate a space in your home for school. It’s going to be more challenging to get into ‘school mode’ at home. Creating a place in your home that’s dedicated to school work can help your child stay focused and subconsciously trigger “school mode.” For younger kids, this might be the kitchen table. Kids older than 12 do better with a desk or other dedicated work area.

Mornings are your friend. It will only get harder as the day wears on to get kids to engage with school work. Avoid letting them do any “fun” or “preferred” activities before they get started on their school work. Save this as a daily break or reward once they’ve completed a mandatory minimum amount of school work.

Teach what you know. This is a great time to teach your kids about a passion and expand your definition of “learning.” Do you know a lot about mechanics and fixing cars? What about planting a fall garden? Even life skills like laundry, cooking or home remodeling can be great skills that keep your kids learning and engaged – and even slip in some practical math lessons.

Try to stay on a schedule. Create some sort of normalcy for you and your kids with a schedule. You don’t need to plan every minute of the day, but waking up, school time, meals and bedtimes should be roughly the same on weekdays. Also, try to schedule some down time for everyone in the family – that includes YOU. 

Everybody is getting more screen time and that is okay. School is on a screen. Social time is now primarily on a screen. Bonding as a family while watching a movie is on screen. Trying to limit screen time overall during COVID-19 is unrealistic. Where you may want to observe some screen time boundaries are with more high-intensity activities like video games, social media and YouTube.

Your feelings and your kid’s feelings are valid. This pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Some feelings of anxiety, sadness and irritability are normal. If you feel yourself losing patience, give yourself a timeout. Walk away for a few minutes, count to ten, walk a quick lap outside or call a friend. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over the grief that goes along with the adjustment to this stressful situation.