[EN] What’s the Deal, Do We Really Need to Stay Home?
Well, in short - yes.
All over the world offices and schools have closed due to the Coronavirus, or scientifically known as COVID-19, outbreak. This is no longer a China problem, or an Italian or Iranian problem. It affects us all.
There are many different opinions on the severity of the virus. One of the most severe pandemics in human history was the Spanish flu which is believed to have killed 50-100 million people all over the world. Considering the population of the planet, it took out 2.5-5%.
It, of course, didn’t help that the outbreak happened after the World War I and medical resources and capabilities were scarce. On the other hand, people did not travel in volumes as they do today. As the reported death rate of COVID-19 is 3.5% now, it all depends on how fast it spreads. We have over 7 billion people in the world, well the math looks sinister...
I am not here to scare anyone, just to point out that history has shown us that dangerous pathogens do pop up every now and then no matter how advanced we think we are as a society. Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry and take accurate precautions. Social distancing is something we can all do to minimize the risks.
Staying home for a few weeks, should be pretty simple, right?
In theory. Many companies are already practicing remote work, many are operating as fully remote even. There’s evidence that it may be even easier organising your work and being productive whilst not physically next to your colleagues. But we still need social interaction.
When it comes to children, particularly younger ones, they have not yet mastered the skills of performing tasks on their own. They need guidance. They need someone to help explain the task and also to help keep their attention on where it needs to be.
Furthermore, right now, during school closures, it is the younger ones that do not get virtual lessons with their teachers. All of that is focused on kids aged 12+. This means that the teaching and guidance falls solely on the parents.
Every parent can right now appreciate teachers as a gift from god, whilst we have to try their roles at home full time. But the fact is, the world was totally unprepared for this. So we must adapt, and we must adapt fast.
How to balance remote work and remote learning?
I am a mother of two young children. My husband and I are working from home as our offices are closed. Both my children go to kindergarten and the eldest is also in pre-school. Even though currently the kindergarten has stayed open we have decided that it is safer to stay at home.
We’re at day 7 of isolation currently and it is definitely becoming a struggle to keep the kids entertained whilst keeping up with work tasks. Even though we may not always appreciate the incredible work that teachers and school administration are doing on a daily basis it becomes apparent when the parents have to juggle these tasks on their own.
Young kids need stability and routine in their day. Establishing routine at home seems to be the only way to keep things on track. Structure the day as if you were still at school or work.
Schedule set times for each activities.
What is your morning routine when getting ready for work and school? Do we need to keep the same routine when there is no need to commute? I would say, absolutely. Still set an alarm to get up at the same time each day, go through your morning routine as usual. The differences may be that you do not need to pack lunches or check that everyone has everything with them but you can use this time instead for setting up what work and study materials you need for the day, getting ready and focused for the day.
Learning time and tasks
Check and organise tasks that kids need to do for the day. Structure tasks that they are able to complete on their own and set aside time from your day on tasks they need help with. If kids are doing interactive video calls with teachers, even better. Organise things and topics around this.
Goes without saying that when working from a home office, work does not stop. But recognize that it will be more difficult to adjust as you have to juggle kids and other tasks as well. When you set your expectations up accordingly you can significantly reduce the stress during this situation. Set up a daily routine and tasks and be prepared to solve ad hoc problems as they come up in both work and family life.
Time for rest for both kids and parents
When kids are at school or kindergarten they have set times for learning, play and rest. It is important that you build this into their daily schedule at home as well.
30-45 minutes learning time needs to be balanced with 10-15 minutes rest. Parents too should find 5-10 minute breaks to recharge: take a short walk, have a chat with your partner or spouse over a cup of tea or coffee, read a book or listen to music for a little while.
Don’t forget that kids need to play. Both on their own and with you. Make sure you take some time off your day to engage and play something as simple as hide and seek for a little bit. This helps to keep kids calm and you will have more productive work time when they are not climbing up your leg.
Time to go outside
If possible of course try and find a bit of time each day to go outside. If you have your own garden, great. If not, try finding non-crowded places for a walk.
This is one of the hardest parts of social distancing. We may not think how important the conversations and social interaction in our lives are until we are not able to do so anymore. This affects kids especially. They are used to spending most of their day at school or kindergarten with their friends and it is hard to cope when that is taken away.
Technology can help a lot here - do video calls with friends and family. Try interactive and educational games that kids can play with their friends, such as 99math. I’ve particularly found a new use case here - competing virtually with grandparents. We do video calls and discuss results after trying to beat each other in math.
Meal times and snacks should be provided at set times. Kids at home will, of course, ask you for snacks every 2 minutes at first, but getting them to understand that quarantine time meal and snack times at home will be on a schedule just as it was at school will reduce quite a lot of stress in your daily activities.
Home tasks and chores
Yes, laundry and dishes are still a thing during quarantine, sadly. For the sake of harmony in the family try and delegate tasks to the most suitable person. If you prefer laundry over dishes and luckily your spouse prefers the dishes, all good. Depending on the age of your kids, get them to help out. Turn it into a competition for more fun.
Stick to bedtime routine and a strict lights-out by x o’clock policy. Even though you may be able to wake up a bit later than usual because you don’t need to spend time on travel in the morning, cranky kids and parents that have stayed up too late would really get the anxiety up during quarantine.
This will pass, but it may take a while
We are not yet sure how long it will take to get the spread of the virus under control. There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in the air. It is important to understand that these fears and feelings are completely normal. And it is okay to feel scared and share your thoughts and concerns.
We must also keep in mind that children understand probably far better what is going on than we expect of them. They hear our conversations, they hear the news and they too are scared. They have to stay away from friends and family and they may not be sure if everyone is okay.
Here is some advice from CDC for parents
Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:
Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
Excessive worry or sadness
Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
Poor school performance or avoiding school
Difficulty with attention and concentration
Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
Unexplained headaches or body pain
Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
There are many things you can do to support your child:
Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
Stay strong and healthy!
Blog post by Liina Laas-Billson, parent of 2 kids, 99math team member