How to support yourself and your family through school closure
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How to support yourself and your family through school closure

Self-care strategies for parents and students

Here we are, at the start of our second week of school closure. It has been over a week since the Dutch government announced a country-wide school closure whilst at the same time most companies decided to go remote. For most of us a new situation in which we try to find balance. Juggling work and home obligations and wishes can be challenging at the best of times. Under the current circumstances it is easy for us parents to lose our cool.

By Elzemiek Chell, school psychologist

If you feel you do, know that you are in good company. To support us all, here are some family self-care strategies, hacks and resources to support you through school closure.

Create a schedule for your day

Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping children and adults happy and healthy. Not being able to go to school or work is a big change to our usual daily routine. Change can be exciting, but also create some levels of worry or anxiety, especially given the current circumstances. Routine, structure and consistency are calming during times of stress.

Even when you are all at home all day, creating a schedule together in which you include getting up times, mealtimes and bedtimes is key. Have breakfast together and include morning or evening exercise. Your family schedule can mimic a school day, alternating periods of study and play. Incorporate your child(ren)’s online learning schedule and do the same with your own work schedule. This way you can easily troubleshoot possible clashes and reach for support if necessary.

As they do in school, it can be helpful to print out your schedule and put it up somewhere visible. You can go over it as part of your morning routine. Depending on the age of your child(ren), they will need regular reminders during the day to help them know when activities are about to begin or end. This can help them transition more easily from one thing to the next.

Create a designated work and learning space

Whether it is at the dining table, at a desk in the living room or in a separate room – try to create a work and learning space. Make sure there is natural light, a table and a chair, enough fresh air. If you have the ability to set up a spare room as a workspace, do so. You can agree with you children they cannot disturb you if you are in this space. That space is for work.

The same applies to your child(ren). If it is time for learning, they can go to their learning space. Provide them with a space where they can put up their drawings and learning schedule from school and make sure they have their pens, device and paper ready. It will help you children transition from one activity to the next.

More ideas? Check out the online learning & wellbeing poster made by the ISUtrecht student support team.

Be active

Most of us spend a significant amount of time behind a device – especially now. For both adults and children, it is important to alternate online and offline activities and build enough exercise into the day.

Make sure you schedule enough break times in your day. During these breaks you can go for a family walk outside (remember your distance to others!), play in the garden or play a game with your family. Dancing to your favorite music or participating in an online challenge set by the schools PHE department is a great alternative if you cannot go outside. Try to minimize device time during these breaks – for instance agree on device free mealtimes or break times.

Find balance in activities

Paying more attention to the present moment, to our thoughts and feelings and the world around us can boost our wellbeing. 

Create an ‘end of the day’ routine for yourself, so you can allow yourself to switch off. Allow yourself and your kids not to fill every second of the day with ‘useful’ time. Finding a balance between online and offline activities, family and alone time, study and playtime, is key.

More ideas? Take a look at this ’50 ways to take a break poster’ and ‘calm-a-Llama scavenger hunt’. The school’s Instagram account also posts daily wellbeing activities during the school closure.

Stay in touch – connect

Our social circle plays an important role in regulating our mood and helping us stay grounded. Staying in touch with your social circle is therefore a key element.

As we know, technology can help us feel closer to relatives or friends that we cannot see on a regular basis. You can have dinner with friends via skype and schedule your after-work drinks via Microsoft teams. Think about allowing your child(ren) the use of social media (within reason) to stay connected to friends and family. It will help you both feel connected and alleviate some stress.

Make agreements, accept and ask for help

To make it work, agreements and managing expectations are key. Make agreements as a family, including all family members. You can start of by discussing what every member of the family finds important to do in the day – maybe your child requests playtime or would like to watch tv? You can also discuss expectations. Especially if you have a partner at home and one or both of you work from home, make sure you discuss and agree on worktimes, childcare and who is supporting your child(ren)’s education. Try to alternate responsibilities. That way everyone gets a break and some room to breathe.

When it comes to housework – everyone can pitch in. Give your children age appropriate jobs. Think about setting the table, help to tidy up the dishes, tidy your own toys after playing and make your bed in the morning. Cooking can be part of your family break time. Try to find a balance that works for your family and allows you to work as a team.

In the process, remember to be kind to yourself and reach out for help if you need it.

A list of age appropriate chores: