The kids will be all right
Parents shouldn't feel the need to be teachers, too
In the wake of COVID-19, children across the country were sent home from school, many with suggested assignments and learning activities.
The last thing parents should do is stress themselves about making their child complete all of these school assignments, said a child development researcher at The Ohio State University.
“You signed up to be a parent, not a teacher,” said Jessica Logan, assistant professor of educational studies.
“All parents are in the same boat. Your kid is not going to fall behind if they don’t do these assignments every day.”
Logan said she has seen a lot of parents coming up with detailed schedules for their kids, including time for home schooling. While schedules can be helpful, she recommends not taking them too seriously.
In fact, Logan said she decided to skip making a schedule after she started working on one for her two children (8 and 12 years old).
“While I was working on it, they both got really into working on a puzzle together. They were talking and there was all this creative expression and play,” she said.
“And I thought, if I had a schedule right now, I would be shutting this off and moving them to the next activity.”
She based her decision to be flexible about her children’s time partly on her previous experience working in two different preschool settings. One was highly structured, with a set curriculum and planned activities. The other was a drop-in setting, where there was no structure.
Both had positives and negatives, she said. But she remembers how the structured preschool left her feeling restricted.
“I felt like I couldn’t let the children breathe and follow their interests and ideas because it was time for the next thing.”
But parents need to be realistic, she emphasized. Kids aren’t always going to be doing enriching activities, and parents don’t need to insist they do.
Many parents are focused on working from home right now – they should not feel guilty doing that while their kids find ways to amuse themselves, even if it is watching TV or playing video games for hours sometimes.
“Remember this isn’t a long-term solution, it is a temporary one that is designed to get you all through this alive and healthy,” Logan said.
“There will be some days when you can encourage them to read, do homework or exercise. But you shouldn’t feel like you must do that every day, because they won’t have the capacity to do that every day.”
Of course, some kids, especially younger ones, will do better with some scheduling, particularly involving sleeping and eating, she said. But parents should allow some flexibility as needs change.
Logan said parents should also be aware of how their children are reacting to the confusing and sometimes frightening news around them.
“The world is a scary place right now and they know it. They can tell,” she said.
Logan was a preschool teacher during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and she recalls how the tragedy was reflected in children’s play in the weeks afterward. She remembers observing kids building towers with blocks and knocking them down with pretend planes.
“Some days kids are going to feel stressed and angry. They know something is up – they’re home from school,” she said.
“They need to feel supported and loved when they are feeling afraid.”
The love and support parents provide will be much more important than any schoolwork they complete, she said.
“The kids will be fine. They will have plenty of time to learn reading and arithmetic. Parents don’t need to stress about that.”