How to structure your 5 to 10 year olds’ time at home
during distance and hybrid learning due to Covid-19
by Dr. Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., Child and Parent Psychologist.
Parents want to provide enough education, activities, and emotional support for their children so they don't experience frequent feelings of frustration and loneliness.
First, here's how parents can work from home. Many parents are dividing their work hours with their spouse. Usually that means one parent gets the morning hours with nearly no interruptions while the other parent tries to get some work done while allowing for lots of time with the kids. Then the parents switch roles. Each parent should try to get most of their work done during daytime hours until about 6pm and get their last 2 or 3 hours of work done after the children go to sleep. If one or both parents aren’t working, it’s easier to follow this suggested schedule because you’ll have more time to be with your children. And lastly, if one or both parents are working away from home, you’ll likely need a relative, a caregiver, or friend to care for your children. This recommended schedule can be helpful in that situation as well.
Second, it helps a lot when parents set up a daily schedule that they can tell their kids about or show them a diagram of how the day will go.
Third, distance and hybrid learning are both very hard for 5 to 10 year olds’. Encourage your children to talk to you about how they feel their days are like -- such as what makes them sad, lonely, bored, irritable, or angry. Talk about how hard it is not knowing how long this will continue. Tell them about the vaccines that are becoming available and how that will help everyone. They might enjoy making up chants about how they feel their life is now. Make yourself available to them when they feel particularly frustrated and unhappy. Let your children know how you feel but try not to add to their emotional burden.
Here’s an example of how to talk to your kids. “Our days are so different now. It’s so hard because we have to be at the computer for so many hours – almost every day. It’s lonely and there’s not much to look forward to. Let’s all try to think of things we can enjoy including when remote learning is over for the day. The good news is that vaccines are finally becoming ready for everyone to get. Just like vaccines you had when you were little that keeps you from getting measles and other sicknesses. The new vaccines are now ready. Everyone will be able to get these vaccines. That means by next summer we’ll all be vaccinated. Then we’ll be able to go out and do what we used to, be with our friends, go back to school, and be done with masks. YAY!”
Sample schedule for five to ten year olds.
When they’re NOT at school 5 full days every week.
- Make sure your kids get dressed first thing in the day so kids don't resist this on the days they do have school. (Kids and adults are more ready to get to work if they don’t spend their day in pajamas.)
- Have the kids think of breakfast ideas and encourage them to help you make breakfast including bringing food to the table. (This is a good time for interacting with your kids.)
- Next is some outdoor activity. If you have a backyard, encourage the kids to kick the soccer ball, shoots baskets, jump on a trampoline, use a play structure. If there’s no backyard, bike, scooter, take walks, or do some running in your neighborhood with the kids. (Great to use up some of their energy and keep them active.)
- Kids who are in kindergarten or beyond can do distance learning taught by their teacher online but parents need to be very available to their kids for this to be successful. If we don’t sit with them frequently, kids lose focus and motivation and find other things to do. You may want them to try using workbooks because distance learning has been hard for the under 8-year olds. A good series of workbooks from preschool through elementary school is: Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills: Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, etc. (These are available on Amazon.com.) Short breaks about 10 minutes long every hour help our children focus. Discuss in advance with them what they could do during the breaks such as chatting with you about what they can do after they finish their schoolwork. (Academics should be the focus during this time.)
- Have the kids help you make lunch. The lunch break – during distance learning - is usually an hour. Have one of you eat with them. Kids should clear their plates and help clean up. This could include play time but preferably not computer time. (Kids feel useful and connected to their parents with this kind of working together experience.)
- After lunch, kids usually have more distance learning. One hour or maybe two with a parent being available to help as needed. Some schools have the after-lunch learning be more independent with less or no teacher involvement. (Parents then need to help even more.)
- In the afternoon, about 3 times a week, parents should set up play dates with another child. It's useful to have a few different kids to choose from who become part of your kid's “social pod or bubble”. This is important because your kids are not likely getting enough socializing time in their week even if they attend school. At the least, our kids need more physical activity time indoors or outdoors. (Kids really need enough time to play with their peers… Two hour playdates are great.)
- Later in the afternoon, have your children help you with chores such as laundry, dishes, toy pickup, vacuuming, etc. … so they learn to be helpful. And then have them help you make dinner including setting the table, clearing dishes, loading the dishwasher. Younger kids can make green salads or fruit salads. (It's great for you and your kids to work together.)
- After dinner, spend about an hour where the whole family can be together, doing what is fun. Then it's bath time for the younger kids and showers for the older kids. (Wonderful when the whole family has free time together including just dancing to music.)
- Next comes the bedtime story and also, the best time for your child and you to chat together. Regular bedtimes are 8-8:30pm for younger kids and 8:30-9pm for older kids. (A nice end to the children's day.) After the kids are asleep, then parents can just focus on their work and hopefully get close to 7 hours of sleep themselves.
A schedule like this can help a lot in meeting your children's important needs while parents get enough of their work done.
While COVID-19 is still a factor in our daily lives, it’s important to find a resource for your children’s social and emotional needs.
First, call your child’s elementary school to see if they know of any after-school programs. If they don’t, see if they have any suggestions for your child’s interests and for his/her age. If that doesn’t help, look up after-school programs for elementary school children in your city, in adjacent cities or if necessary, in your county.
Here’s an example: When I looked up Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View CA, I found Run for Fun camps. I spoke to several parents in those towns whose children were enrolled and got useful information about this program. There are many more after-school programs that you can find online that have good guidelines to ensure your child’s health and safety.
Remote (or distance) learning children, and even those who attend in-person class part-time really have to have social time. If there are no programs in your community, try arranging social time with one or a few of the children in your child’s class. This is important.
When your children are able to be in class full-time, find out how they are allowed to socialize. If socializing is restricted, you should arrange after-school and weekend socializing.
Dr. Rothenberg is also available to guide your family with concerns
about these and other child rearing issues. Her parenting and child psychology
practice is in Redwood City, CA focusing on preschool and elementary school children.
See Specialties and Services.
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