FAQs and Top Tips
for Parents and Families
If, as a parent, you are working from home and look to ensure that your child can learn from home effectively, you’ve come to the right place!
With everyone at home and unable to go anywhere, it can feel like a very long day and everyone needs breaks from each other.
Screentime can provide that and be a welcome relief for everyone (keeps kids quiet, doesn’t cause a mess, allows parents to get on with other stuff etc.), but we all know that too much screen time is not good for children’s wellbeing.
Rather than putting numbers on the minutes and hours, we want parents to feel in control of their own family life and not feel guilty if their children are using screens more than normal.
That doesn’t mean the kids should be glued to a screen for hours on end but, in these difficult times, do what you can. Here are some tips to make it easier to get the balance right.
- Give them a Balanced Play Diet and agree on screen-time limits in advance.
- Get them involved in everyday activities and try and make them fun – playing a matching game with socks when sorting laundry etc.
- Make it into an adventure and do things you’d not normally have time for – turning the living room into an obstacle course is fine when you know you’re not expecting visitors!
- Let the kids lead – it’s not your job to be their entertainer 24/7 and letting them get a bit bored (without just resorting to screen-time) is good for them and helps them develop decision-making skills and initiative.
- Keep as active as possible – get outside when you can – even a quick walk around the block or playing outside for a few minutes can be beneficial.
- There’s no one size fits all – if your family like routine then have one and help everyone feel more in control; if not, treat it as an adventure, throw the normal routine out, and have fun (easier to do this with older children, young children tend to benefit from more familiarity and routine)
- Stagger timings so you all get some alone time – especially important if there are a lot of you cooped up in the same place. Early risers can get up and enjoy some time whilst the rest of the house sleeps in. Night owls can enjoy being up later and doing their own thing when everyone else is in bed.
- Family mealtimes can become a focus of the day. Everyone can get involved in preparing them and clearing up. Making the mealtimes fun – playing a game, having a theme for discussion, making up a story etc. can all help bring the family closer together and pass the day more easily.
- Make sure there’s some time for physical activity each day – it’s so important for everyone’s wellbeing and will help children sleep better.
- Give each other space when needed – either a pre-agreed rota on who gets control of the TV or a code word that people can use when they feel they’re getting overwhelmed so they can have a bit of space.
- It’s all about balance – if children are active and playing imaginatively most of the day then a couple of bouts of screen-time, especially if they are using it for learning or communicating with friends is fine – it’s the solitary, sedentary passive, mindless games that really need limiting.
- Check out the Good App Guide for apps that help children develop a range of skills to get the most out of screen-time.
- Talk to your children and engage with them on the tech – get them to teach you about the games they are playing or the platforms they’re using.
- Try playing games together – there are some great connected toys that combine traditional play patterns with tech that you can all enjoy.
- Do what you need to survive. Feeling guilty about letting the kids have more screen-time than usual because you’ve got to work doesn’t do anyone any favours – these are not usual times, don’t be too hard on yourself.
- There are plenty of online educational resources – we have listed lots of them at the Good Learning Guide – but don’t try and replicate a school setting. Use the time to help children develop a range of skills that they don’t usually get the chance to develop at school like cooking, sewing, budgeting, etc.
- Let the children learn through play as much as possible – there are lots of ways of getting learning into playtime if you ask the right questions during the games. Think of it as hiding the veggies in the pasta sauce.
- Stay in communication with the school and follow their suggestions.
- Consider doing a project together as a family. Tracing your family tree or redesigning a room in the house can be fun – everyone can contribute and there are lots of opportunities for learning that can be tailored to your children’s interests, ages and abilities.
Children with additional needs can find disruptions to routines particularly difficult to manage and this can have a knock-on effect for the whole family. Navigating the unavoidable changes to family life brought about by school closures and self-isolation will be tricky but here are a few ideas to help:
- Give yourself some adjustment time – don’t expect to get it all right straight away.
- Make sure you’re ok – you’ll be more able to react appropriately to your children’s needs if you are not feeling frazzled yourself. Call in support from friends and family as much as possible.
- Establish a routine that works for you and your family and help your child with additional needs settle into it gradually. If you’re able to get them involved in establishing the routine, even better.
- Try and minimise other changes – this is not the time to rearrange the furniture or try new dishes – at least not until the new ‘normal routine’ is established
- Pick your battles – these are unusual times and it’s ok to relax usual rules a little and give yourself a break. Hang in there, you’re doing an amazing job.