You’ve heard me talk a lot about resilience, and so far, most of it has been focused on adults and how we can build our resilience. What I didn’t realise, is how relevant that info would be about using resilience to manage the change that 90% of Australian parents with school-aged children would now be going through – homeschooling!!
Remember, resilience is about bouncing forward, facing challenges and adversity and seeing opportunity in them, learning from them. Who am I kidding – in this case, it’s perfectly fine to admit that resilience is about survival and just getting through the day!
We’ve thrown a new factor into the mix – kids aged from around 5, right through to 17-year old’s. For the past month (at least) they have been cut off from all the activities that keep them sane, burn off their excess energy and keep you on an even keel. Now, on top of this, in huge numbers, they are now being put in a situation where parents are also their teachers.
Forget balancing work and home, or tips on working from home, this is a new level!
So, I thought I’d rope in some advice from an expert; my 25-year-old son who is a secondary school teacher, and also worked in an Out of School Hours programme with Junior Primary to Year 7 kids while he was studying at Uni. I’ve been hearing from him around the challenges of turning PE (in an all-boys school) into a “no-contact” subject, of adapting all his curriculum plans to a fully online environment and of how he has worked with parents to set them up for success as they step into this brave new world! Firstly, some tips from me on how to build resilience in your kids – these apply now and are just as relevant AC (after COVID).
Understand that your children may be stressed – their whole world has changed, no matter what their age. It may be one of the first times their mum or dad can’t fix what’s going on – and that can be confronting.
Teach them to problem-solve – resist the urge to jump in and fix things for them. By doing this, you actually weaken their resilience. Kids need to experience some discomfort so they can learn to work through it and build their problem-solving skills. Without this skill, kids will experience anxiety and shut down in the face of adversity. Of course, you need to take their age into consideration when you decide what problems to let them have a go at fixing first! A classic one is when the internet goes down, or when a learning portal from school isn’t working. Talk to them about planning ahead of time for problems such as this by having open discussions about what some of the challenges may be as they move to an online platform. Brainstorming solutions teaches them how to build the skills they need to solve problems in life.
Spend focused one-on-one time with your kids – even though you are all stuck at home, make time to work on your relationship with them. This may mean going for a walk with just them and taking turns to do it so all siblings have an opportunity for undivided attention. It will definitely mean stepping away from your phone or computer and really engaging with them. This unconditional connection will make them more likely to come to you for guidance if they do have a bigger problem to discuss.
Label emotions – when stress kicks in, emotions run hot. Teach your kids that all emotions are important and that labelling their feelings can help them make sense of what they’re experiencing. Tell them that it’s ok to feel anxious, sad, jealous etc and reassure them that bad feelings usually pass.
Demonstrate coping skills – deep breathing, stepping away from the situation are just two simple methods that are easy to apply at all ages.
Embrace mistakes – theirs and yours! Failure avoiders lack resilience. In fact, failure avoiders tend to be highly anxious kids. If you focus on end results, kids get caught up in the pass/fail cycle. They either succeed or they don’t. This causes risk avoidance. Embracing mistakes, (your own included) helps promote a growth mindset and gives kids the message that mistakes help them learn. It can be useful to talk about a mistake you made and how you recovered from it.
Model resiliency – the best way to teach resilience is to model it. We all encounter a stressful situation. Using coping and calming strategies. Deep breathing can be an effective way to work through stress. Always label your emotions and talk through your problem-solving process.
Go Outside – Exercise helps strengthen the brain and make it more resilience to stress and adversity. While team sports are the most popular method of consistent exercise for kids, all kids really need is time spent outdoors engaging in physical activity. This type of free play actively builds resilience. So now you have some tips around helping your kids navigate some of the obstacles they may hit in their “new” normal, it’s time to share some tips to make it easier for you to take on the teaching challenge.
Tips from Troy (a real teacher)!
The first thing to remember is that the situation is uncomfortable, different and challenging. Think of it as providing opportunities rather than roadblocks. Remember that this is a new approach for not only you and your kids, but also the teachers! They are in new territory and nothing that they have done previously around online teaching would compare to the situation they find themselves in.
Establish a routine that works for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s unrealistic for you to expect that you can keep your kids engaged for the equivalent of an entire lesson like they would at school. The important thing is for you to have a routine that replicates the patterns they experience at school – teachers live and breathe by a timetable and structure. Set time, set breaks set expectations, set measurables. If you set it, you will find it easier to achieve it. Don’t plan out the entire week and then be frustrated or feel like you’ve failed if you don’t achieve it. Focus on one day at a time. Towards the end of the day, review and adapt for the next day. For example, if the next day looks like it’s going to be fantastic weather, focus on getting outside, riding bikes, walking, kicking a footy or having a hit of tennis. The other work can be done later – the activity will achieve a lot more than making sure you tick all the boxes for every other subject!
Devices are powerful in this setting – but can also be limiting. Limit phone accessibility and do not sit in front of your computer for 6 hours a day. We don’t do this at school, so don’t do it at home. Humans are living organisms – we need healthy food, exercise, water and sunlight. Sustain and maintain this input and your output will match! Overall, if we can satisfy the structures of life and wellbeing; students, teachers and homeschooling parents will find it easier to adapt to the stresses/challenges of curriculum, IT and learning. Master the simple structures, practice the complex structures.
Remember, ask questions if you aren’t sure! If your child has a school email address (.edu.au) they can access
This is a free resource which has videos, movies etc along with teaching notes and resources that can be accessed free of charge with an educational email address. It’s a great way to supplement materials or to have some different resources to access. Sign up and check out all the great content!
Many thanks to Troy Kingham for sharing his knowledge and experience – if you’d like a copy of his tips, download the free resource below
So, we’ve covered a lot! Remember, you’ve got this (if you haven’t messaged me and / or visit Dan Murphy’s)!! This won’t be forever, and if you need help all you need to do is ask – teachers are there to help, you just need to reach out. Let the games begin…….