Home schooling in lockdown, raising happy kids and keeping a level head yourself

Norman Webster

Home schooling has introduced a whole new level of stress to so many families; for children and parents alike.

There is lots of information available for what is known as “Elective home education”. There is nothing elective about the situation we find ourselves in at present, but we will get through this and it is to end shortly. Sadly, many of us will have lost family members to the pandemic, which will be adding another layer of stress and anxiety to life.

Schools have dealt with the transition to online learning with varying levels of success but there are many communities where families simply lack the technology to access online lessons. Thankfully, schools are aware of their vulnerable children and are offering lessons in school, or trying to see that families have the necessary technology.

How have you been dealing with balancing your need to work along with the demands of home schooling?

I have spoken with parents who have changed their sleeping habits; getting up earlier to do a couple of hours work before the rest of the family wake. Others have worked late into the evenings when the children have gone to bed. Older children, being more independent, can follow online lessons without too much supervision, but it is generally the younger ones who require more supervision from adults. 

In two parent households, it is easier to rotate the home-schooling responsibilities, but I do know of several grandparents who have moved in, to take on the teaching responsibilities in single parent families.

Whatever your arrangements have been, do not underestimate the life skills that you could be sharing your children during home schooling: paying the bills, ordering online groceries, or drawing up a shopping list for dad to have an outing to the supermarket. There are the daily chores that could be shared and establishment of different routines as a result of lockdown.

Routine is important to a child’s mental health. It creates a feeling of comfort and stability in uncertain times. Some outdoor activity is essential to physical as well as mental activity. We are blessed with some lovely play areas in Mid Sussex and we are surrounded by beautiful countryside too. A nature walk can be a different version of the ever-popular ‘Forest School’ concept. 

I came across a pictorial ‘Self Care & Mental Health for Kids’ post on Linkedin a few weeks ago. With thanks to Blessings Manifesting, some of the gems include:

  • Share your own feelings to encourage self-awareness.
  • Set aside time for low-stress or solo activities.
  • Encourage journaling and diaries.
  • Focus on articulating feelings. “I am angry.” “I am sad.”
  • Recognize toxic stress events.
  • Practice self-care yourself, to set the standard.
  • Establish self-care routines.
  • Cultivate interests and hobbies.

I am re-reading a good book at the moment. It is one of those books that can be picked up and opened again after days or weeks away doing other things. It is written by two young mothers living in Holland; Rina Mae Acosta, a Filipino raised in San Francisco and married to a dutchman and the other, Michele Hutchinson, an English woman who also chose a Dutch husband.

They highlight the easy-going nature of Dutch parents, who have “reined in the anxiety, stress and expectations of modern-day parenting, redefining the meaning of success and wellbeing. For them, success starts with happiness – that of their children and themselves.”

Ah. Yes, the book is entitled ‘The Happiest Kids in The World’.

This may sound a bit disjointed, but stick with me please. My mum always said, “Never leave home on an empty stomach”. Consequently, I never have done; this being one of the few things my mum said that I ever stuck with as a teenager.

In chapter 11 of ‘The Happiest Kids in The World’, there is mention of a 2013 UNICEF report that declared Dutch children to be the happiest in the world. Could it be that 85% of Dutch children aged eleven, thirteen and fifteen surveyed, ate breakfast every day? The point is also made that Dutch children have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast. I’ve always thought that Hagelslag was the best invention ever!

Sitting down around a table to eat meals, is something which underpins Dutch family life. In the UK, breakfast is often skipped altogether in the rush to get out the door. Perhaps your family has started off each day in a slower gear during the Covid months? I hope so. 

It is the start to the day that sets the rhythm of the day.

For that matter, it is the rhythm of the day, as it winds down, that sets the pattern for good sound sleep. 

The common denominator in all this is routine. Having a good regular routine, builds a child’s confidence and security within their family unit, no matter what that family unit comprises: the important element is routine!

Now what does all this have to do with the East Grinstead Business Association you may ask? Well not much directly, but a happy family life makes for happy workers, which makes for good levels of productivity.

I very much hope that post-Covid, there will be a greater acceptance of work-from-home as a possible solution to the occasional school sports day, doctor’s appointment, or Christmas concert. My experience has been that employees will do more work on those days, to ensure a finger cannot be pointed at them. Yes, sadly the odd one or two might not, but they are usually shown up by colleagues in the end.

The other key benefit of working from home some days, is that staff are not spending at least an hour a day stuck in traffic, sitting on a train, or trying to get to a far distant office just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Those who commute into London, are often spending almost three hours each day commuting. What a waste of time, even if one tries to work on an overcrowded train. Some will eventually tire of that routine as I did, and find work locally. There is often a sacrifice to be made, as earnings locally hardly ever compete against those of ‘The Big Smoke’.

Zoom, Teams and other technology, has revolutionised the way we work and as we come out of the shadows of Covid, we must be careful not to lose those benefits of new and better ways of working that necessity has forced on us. 

I hope we permanently adopt some of these new ways, to be more productive whilst spending fewer hours away from home so that when evenings and weekends come around, parents have more time and energy to enjoy their families. Establishing new secure routines of work and play is good for children, parents and employees. And if you are a sole trader, you will benefit from a little self-care whilst trying to rebuild your livelihood.  

I fully appreciate the challenges of running your own business; I have done that too. It will be tough rebuilding post Covid and that’s where setting some time aside for a short walk, run, gym session or whatever suits you. Networking will again become an important focus to promote your business, share successes and failures and build new relationships.

The EGBA provides information on grant availability, activities within the local area, networking and sharing. Membership is remarkably reasonable and it’s easy to sign up here: https://egba.co.uk/join-the-egba/ 

Norman Webster, District Councillor

Author: fiona bewers
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