Seemingly overnight, many parents have found themselves working from home and homeschooling their children for the first time in their lives in the wake of COVID-19.
The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance pulled together leaders in the community, school and healthcare systems to speak to viewers during its weekly Wednesdays@One Webinar Series about how to help parents release some of the pressures of educating their children while also taking care of their own well being.
Heather Boyles, supervisor of elementary math, science, and gifted for Lynchburg City Schools, said she has heard from many working parents who have said they not only have to adjust to working from home but now are anxious about educating their children.
She said it is important, first and foremost, for parents to focus on the health and safety of their family and children before worrying about education and grades.
The school system recently launched a home learning website with various choices in classes and difficulty levels. It is open to the public to access.
“Especially for elementary and secondary kids, this is just a suggested schedule and our object is not to recreate what would happen in school buildings,” she said. “You have to be flexible and take advantage of the nice weather, play in the yard and walk your dog.”
She said the goal is to have children learning, thinking and staying engaged as they would be in traditional schooling.
Allison Jordan, supervisor of secondary English, social studies, world languages, and English learners with Lynchburg City Schools, said now is not the time for parents to become completely overwhelmed with all the learning opportunities for their children.
“These don’t replace learning instruction. You are not the teachers. I’ve seen some hilarious examples of moms and dads trying to teach math. You are not replacing the instructor, so don’t focus on grades. Let your kids pick a choice that works for them and let them try to first work through it on their own,” she said.
She said further down the line there will be opportunities for progress monitoring from the school system so teachers can see how students are engaged with the site and which choices they are progressing with.
“But that will take place in the beginning of next school year,” she said. “Don’t worry that they have missed the last quarter. That will fall on the school system.”
Tami Tinnin, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Johnson Health Center, told parents to stay aware of any new mental health issues that may crop up with their children, such as irritability, hyper-activeness or withdrawal that may not be typical.
Basic ways to help with those behaviors, she said, would include developing a schedule for the day, which children need as a stabilizer.
“It will help for the transition between things and make things easier. They will know what’s ahead and how to prepare,” she said, adding children need to maintain healthy eating and sleep habits as well.
“Be open to having conversations about their fears and concerns,” Tinnin said. “Now is a good time to talk to kids about the things they may not be able to verbalize. Ask them what it’s like to be away from their friends and what is the best and worst part of being home and ask them if they’re afraid or scared. It’s something we don’t automatically think to talk about but it’s important to open that door and let them be honest without judgment.”
Lauren Barnes, founder and program manager for The Motherhood Collective at HumanKind, said most support and validation happens in the work place now that has disappeared, and there is a gap in the lives of working parents.
She reminded parents to take care of themselves and on a daily basis to think about what they need to survive the day.
“It can change daily so have patience with yourself,” she said.
Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.