Worried about how the COVID years are impacting your Child’s development? Studies show many parents feel the same and here is what you can do about it.
Director of Life Rocks
Are you worried that your child’s academic development has slowed down during and due to COVID restrictions? Are you having concerns that you find it hard to balance having a job, being a parent and also being a teacher? Are you concerned that the lockdowns and COVID era type shutdowns of schools, parks, outdoors and sociability are impacting your child’s health and development negatively? If you are, you are not alone. 2020 and 2021 studies were conducted on parents, families, the home learning space, digital teaching, screen exposure and children’s development. Let’s dive into some of the concerns and issues that parents are facing, what the research is pointing to and how we might help improve the quality of the learning, development and also the teaching experience of raising children in the COVID era. In the study “The Impacts of COVID‑19 on Early Childhood Education 2021”, parents and teachers were interviewed with pertinent questions regarding their experience in teaching and parenting throughout the COVID lockdowns. Northern American parents and teachers reported the following concerns: Lack of access to technology, internet and quality digital resources.
Multiple children having to share devices and fighting over devices.
Parents working full-time are unable to dedicate the necessary time for their child’s learning.
Deep concerns about the widening of learning gaps, given that students do not have equitable access or equal levels of support and resources available.
School day eating up the parents day, limiting what parents can reasonably achieve in a day.
Deep concerns over the negative social and emotional impacts of remote learning for students cut off from friends and activities.
Concerns that the quality of teaching had diminished due to the transition to remote teaching and learning.
Parents concerned over lack of differentiated instruction, normally available in a classroom.
Parents concerns over the lack of their own professional training, their ability to engage their children and to benefit their academic learning.
Overwhelmed with the time that is required of them to support their children’s learning.
Seeing that the overuse of technology is hard to manage and is negatively impacting children’s physical and mental health.
That children have reduced sensory, play, and social opportunities because of limiting access to the outdoors, friends and spontaneity.
If these concerns sound familiar, you are not alone. Parents and teachers across the world are facing unprecedented challenges. Another 2021 study (Deoni 2021) on COVID’s impact on childhood found that “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic. Moreover, we find that males and children in lower socioeconomic families have been most affected.” Concerns over our children’s development in all areas are legitimate and are not being adequately addressed by our governments or education system. The education system is struggling to keep up with the changes and demands on teachers and systems, and rightly so. Speaking to an early learning discovery space in late 2020, I was told that they now must wash all the Lego by hand every day, in a recently purchased dishwasher, after a small class of children handle it. These extra measures that places like preschools are taking, if they are even open, is a burden on an already time poor and under resourced sector. So what are the solutions? Educators are preparing the runway to face the reality that many students may be academically behind, and the curriculum is being shifted to meet students more “where they are at” than having previous standards for academic success in place. There are callouts from the teaching and academic sectors to create a community approach toward reaching families, where support workers, food groups, libraries, mentors and health workers can be integrated more into the family setting to help support. Yet childhood moves fast, and waiting for policy to change and processes to be implemented is unlikely to catch the children already feeling the deficit of these 2 years. In the meantime, whilst government systems hopefully do create a more reasonable approach to childhood learning and development, as parents and educators, we must focus on simple strategies that work and look at the potential benefits to be gained from overcoming these situations. Here are some strategies to begin implementing that will alleviate some of the pressure created through raising and educating children in the COVID era: - Release the pressure that you hold for the academic performance of your child. Many parents realise that the emotional, physical and mental needs of their child outweigh the risk that they will not perform well at reading or math. Development of children is already rushed by many cultures in the modern world, with an emphasis on reading, writing and math ( cognitive skills) being the most important, often occurring at the expense of free play and sensory development. Sensory development is the most important for young children.
Create space for play. Rather than feeling pressured to pursue a digital curriculum for fear that your child will not develop – create more opportunities for free play and discovery using sensory play and physical play. Art, sculpture, digging holes in the backyard, cooking, dancing, music, and gardening are all creative, fun and amazing learning opportunities. Humans learn as much by doing as well as by thinking. Take the pressure off the need for academic learning and enjoy time with your children playing. Participate in this experience! No one needs professional training on how to play. It just takes some childlike courage and connecting to something that you may enjoy doing.
Take the classroom outdoors. This happened in pandemic like situations in the early 19th century in America when people were fearing tuberculosis, outdoor classrooms became popular. It is easy to set up a picnic rug under a tree and put the laptop on a table outdoors. We are still doing the digital class experience, but now we have the added benefits of; outdoor light, fresh air, natural textures, and time spent with plants and wildlife - all shown to ease children’s stress levels. - Discover learning together. Many parents, in general, feel under-equipped to be a teacher. They feel they do not have the right knowledge to say “the right thing”, but good teaching is actually less about rote learning of “facts” and more about instilling a mindset of learning and discovery in our children. So, what can we do to be effective teachers? Ask more questions! When your child says “ Mum what is that tree called”, even if you know the answer, rather than giving the information, say: “how about we both find out?” or “let's go and look together and see what we can discover!”. This approach of questioning and curiosity is the key to good teaching, where we guide our children into being curious and not just learning “facts”. It also models good behaviour to children, where adults are also ever curious and always learning. Parents don’t have to know everything; they just need to point children in the direction of curiosity and discovery and help the child find the resources they need to complete the journey! Nothing is easy when it comes to COVID, but there are many opportunities. One of the positive reflections of the study of parenting opinions and stories from the COVID 2019 and 2020 was the increased time that some parents were having with their children. Many parents reported feeling closer and more connected to their children. I say, let's capitalise on that closeness and begin to now use that connection to step deeper and closer into Nature for our learning, peace and health. Life Rocks