|“Thank god schools have resumed, and we hope this year there are no breaks with the physical routines because I simply cannot cope with 2 young children at home. And I need to get my life back on track!”|
“I feel like I have let me kids down because I was overwhelmed with the responsibility. Sending her off to classes was my down time, and because of lockdown she has become more clingy and taking forever to mingle, which stresses me out.”
“Everyone talks about equal parenting, and sometimes when I see posts especially during Father’s Day, I feel a sense of resentment towards my husband who is a couch potato and will shoot out instructions, continue with his boys routine and expect that as long as he brings in the financial stability, I must manage the rest.”
“I think my son will grow up to hate me as I don’t do half the things some other mums are able to. I am just tired with no break since March 2019.”
I have (with their permission but without revealing their names) quoted what some mothers have shared with me over the past month or so. There are many more, but these in general capture the mood at the moment as parents cope with the challenges of a pandemic that hopefully is an endemic and a virus that we learn to deal with.
Consequences of a rather unusual and traumatic past two years were a reality we all expected. The intensity, however is a realisation that is hitting home now.
So what can we as educators offer in terms of a solution?
Well, quite frankly, what we have is nothing that we have not said before but the revisit may help families in this period of transition. I call this generation CK (CovidKids) and for starters, let’s give them some patience and understanding.
1. Regularise a routine – enough sleep (yes, young children till the age of 10-12 years of age need to be sleeping 10-12 hours at NIGHT, napping less during the day), physical play at least 2-3 hours in a day, and starting the day with a warm up exercise is a must!. Eating 3 meals (and not every hour), snacking healthy options if at all and also eating earlier than 9:30 pm (this should be their best sleep moment at night, not eating time!). This is your core essential, and I know this comes as a shock and surprise to most mothers when I say this. If you crack this routine (and you will if you are consistent) you will have the time that you need for yourself
2. Stop doing EVERYTHING for your children. You are consciously making them dependent on you. Start the process of inviting them to self help routines like, “hey it is break fast, so fetch your plates, glass etc and lay the table love”. One it gets them to understand organisational skills, and also physical movement works to build the appetite. The more dependent a child, the longer it takes for the child to settle into classroom routines, so be the saviour and make it easier for the teachers!
3. Introduce elements of fun in everyday rituals including showers (I am alarmed that children do not bathe 3 times a day!!!) with music, some banter and lots of laughter.
4. Ditch the ‘instructional’ tone and trade it for a more friendly one where instead of saying, ‘wake up it’s time for school’ with an alarm and simply a hug and cuddle and play the child’s favourite music and allow the child to ‘wake-up’ without a barrage of commands like ‘hurry, breakfast is on the table, time to shower … we are getting late.’ If as a family you are always running late, perhaps you need to revisit when you are waking up and how much time you are assigning to every day tasks. Some families need more time so that they are not rushed.
5. Have conversations with your children when they are back from school instead of an interrogation. Stop the need to ask what they did and what they ate. This is the single most overused conversation starter and as a child, their dread point. Instead greet the child with a smile, discuss some funny event that happened to you or someone you know and allow the child to ‘cool down’ after a long day at school. Resist the temptation to ask about home-work till after a shower, and a snack and some TV time!!
6. Home-stations are a must, and this is their space to revise, revisit and complete home-work tasks. These are private, quiet, well ventilated corners in the house (if the child does not have a room to herself or himself and shares it with you). Make sure those tables, chairs that you invested in during lockdown are put to good use. Children need to know they must spent a few minutes or an hour a day after school finishing tasks.
7. Make playtime a highlight (you can send them for a few classes not 10!!!) if your building has limited access else for me, park time and just aimless playing is a great stress buster not to mention works well for social skills.
8. Ensure that you create a routine for yourself even when your child is home – like taking a walk or meeting a friend for coffee or catching up with friends over a call when your child is at the home-station or gone down to play. It is important that you prioritise you!
9. Create some fun activities around the weekend but also ensure there is enough time to simply be! Dont make weekends about action every second, weekends are meant to be ‘breaks’ to recover from a hectic week and meant to recharge batteries not tire the kids out!
10. Read, read and read. Daily, over weekends – this gives you opportunities to discover a book, ideas, builds communication skills and inculcates habits that help the children in the long run.
Mothers who have followed these steps since the first unlock-down time, have shared that their world became more bearable, more calmer and they found themselves at peace, not focused on what all they did not have to appreciating the little victories.
The road ahead is simply that for CK, so as parents let’s celebrate it with an attitude that is more positive and healthy. And I always say, there will be good days, and days when you need to reach out to an expert to help you navigate. No one is judging!
Fatema Agarkar as Keynote speaker @IIT Mumbai, October 13th 2023