FAQs and Top Tips for Parents and Families – Home Learning Hub

New Video Series: Dr Amanda Gummer on Learning and Working from Home

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!

How to talk to your kids about Coronavirus

I'm sure a lot of you are getting questions from your children on what is coronavirus. And it can be difficult when we don't know the full facts ourselves to talk to children about difficult topics like this. 

My advice here is to be simple and honest in your answers.

One of the things that we need to avoid is overburdening young children with too much information which can actually lead to increased anxiety levels. So keep the answers simple, honest and age appropriate and let the children lead conversation on this.

  • Let the children lead - give them simple, honest answers to their questions but don’t overburden young children with too much detail. You can always ask them if you answered their question ok, or if they have anything else they want to know.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” - then either look up the information together or ask the child what he/she thinks and discuss it further.
  • Don’t have the news on constantly - children will half hear things and they may get confused or scared if they don’t know the full picture. 
  • Let them know that you’re following the experts’ advice and you’ll keep them safe.
  • Make it fun - singing songs whilst washing hands, and play games to practice good hygiene.

How do I keep my kids entertained at home whilst on lockdown?

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.

  • 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.

What does a healthy family routine look like during lockdown?

  • 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. 

How much screen-time is too much during lockdown?

  • 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.

Good Apps to support home learning

Worried about your children’s education suffering?

  • There are plenty of online educational resources - we have listed lots of them on the Home Learning Hub - 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. 

How to cope with kids with SEN?

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. 

How do I keep my kids entertained at home whilst on lockdown?

In a digital age, many of us are being asked to work from home - which can have real benefits, but when coupled with the children being at home too and not being able to go out much to get a break and change of scenery, it can easily become a toxic environment and negatively impact your (and your family’s) wellbeing. 

Here are a few tips from the Parent-Centred Parenting model to help you manage working from home:

  • Talk about this with the whole family - if you have a shared computer, decide who gets to use it when. Make a plan that works for the whole family, even if that means getting up early or staying up later to get some tasks done whilst there’s relative peace in the house.
  • Try and identify a workspace - this will help you separate work from home life and switch off, as well as being a signal to the children that you’re working.
  • Get the children to help with some of the household activities - if they’re old enough, ask them to make dinner whilst you work so you can then enjoy family time together.
  • Social distancing doesn’t mean you can never see anyone again. The rules are changing as lockdown eases; but at the time of writing, as long as your family isn't self-isolating it’s ok to meet up (outdoors and 2m apart) with friends and family members. Formal childcare restarted in the summer and you can also form support bubbles with up to two households; you can use your bubble(s) to take turns with childcare.
  • Encourage children to make their own fun - don’t feel that you have to be their entertainer. Give them lots of positive reinforcement if they are able to amuse themselves (not just on a screen) and let you complete your work. You’re helping them learn a lot about themselves and develop decision-making skills and initiative so there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. 

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