Addressing School Stress for Parents Now Also Acting as Teachers
by Kayelyn Robinson, LCSW at the Payson Family Clinic
Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPTS)
Utah Association of Play Therapy Board Member
Many parents have not been teachers in a formal capacity before, so the isolation caused by COVID-19 and having to be the academic instructors is increasing the stress in our lives.
Some of the things that parents are having success with and that I recommend are:
Keep academics minimal and break it up throughout the day. Children are not wired to sit still for long periods doing book work or other intensely focused learning. They need play. Play is how they experience and work through their lives and the events that happen. Parents are also finding it difficult to help 2-9 kids at the same time with academics. Balance will help us meet the needs and reduce stress. So what does that look like?
Do an academic assignment or subject for 15-30 minutes then have a 30-minute activity. For example, do math for 15 minutes with your 1st grader or 30 minutes for grades 4 and up and then have them complete a chore for not more than 20 minutes- go to the bathroom and get a drink then do another academic assignment or subject for another 15-30 minutes. Structure your day so that your children who can do certain things on their own are doing those tasks when you are helping a child who needs more guidance or one-on-one help.
Some of my suggested activities to interweave into your day are (choose 2-4 that work with your time and schedule to do each day):
- 30 minutes of play with your child/children
- 30 minutes of free play for your child/children
- Doing short chores to keep the home tidy and clean/disinfected
- Hygiene- take baths and showers throughout the day, give hand massages or back rubs, brush teeth
- Read stories to your children and take turns reading with those who can read.
- Child directed learning-Have your child work on a project of their choice that they are interested in or learn about something they want to know more about. (Minimize exposure to news about the pandemic and prevent it all together for children under 12.)
- Food preparation- have your child help you with food preparation throughout the day. Perhaps you can teach them to make bread, biscuits, corn bread, etc. Bake cookies and treats together and of course clean up together.
- Have some art supplies for your child to draw about their worries and fears or their hopes and dreams.
- Have physical activities that they can do inside like dancing, calisthenics, stretching, yoga, etc. YouTube has some good yoga options and some designed specifically for kids.
- If your family participates in religious services you can incorporate religious studies throughout your weekdays and not just on your day of worship.
A visual schedule that children can see will help them to be able to self- direct. Children under 10 do best with picture charts rather than words. I use google images, but always add the words “clip art” to keep my searches from bringing up inappropriate stuff. So far it has worked.
Most of all remember that academic learning can be caught up. When we are in highly anxious or depressive states we are unable to learn new material. Managing emotions and mental health will make learning more achievable. If your child is having a hard day, or you are, please take a day to just take care of those emotions and stressors and then get back to the learning. There is not one right way to do this and we are learning as we go.
Reach out to family, friends, support persons, and mental health providers when you need to. Many of us are still providing services through electronic avenues. We don’t have to do this alone though we may be isolated physically. Reach out to those who do not have access to internet or other means of contact in any way that you can safely do so. Service to others helps us to not get hyper focused on our own struggles.