Keeping children sharp during covid isolation

Keeping children sharp during covid isolation

Children of all ages are being affected by the closure of schools brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic. This age group is a very susceptible group to possibly enter into an emotional crisis, while the world is busy containing the pandemic. For school going children, the transition to remote learning from schooling can be jarring and challenge developing functional skills.  This period of isolation and school disruption can be taken as a rather positive opportunity for parents to engage with their children and maintain their cognitive and academic progress.

We understand that despite the best efforts, the at home learning experience may not fully replicate School environment. Many aspects of a school environment that includes student teacher relationships, social interaction, structured schedules, use of labs and technology are all hard to replicate at home. The goal here is not to fully replicate a school environment, but to focus on providing the best learning environment possible.

We will be discussing some activities and practices that parents can employ to keep their children’s minds sharp, while society adjusts to the ongoing pandemic.

1: The first measure that parents need to follow is to provide facts:

As early as children come into the world, they start perceiving changes in their surroundings. It is almost impossible and inadvisable to keep them in the dark about the situation with the pandemic. It is important that we provide age-appropriate information to the children. Though we cannot share all possible data and reports with them, not sharing any information is not wise either. To avoid misconceptions and confusion, we need to explain safety measures taken, which will help children stay focused on their contribution in the fight against the virus. Children could get anxious and feel helpless about the lockdown and the changes in their routine. The best way to provide them positivity is by making them feel that they are part of a larger fight or Battle against an external virus rather than projecting them as the ones who are under threat, so instead of saying that “we should not go out” it is better to say “we need to stay Indoors”.  

As your child is at home more than usual their normal sense of routine will be disrupted, and you must be wondering how to ensure that their minds are kept sharp despite the pandemic and the isolation.

2: Having schedules and routines:

Children thrive on routine, when some children experience anxiety about the changes and what is happening does not make sense to them, this routine provides them with a sense of normalcy. You can plan for rough daily routines, with set timings for different activities like online classes, School homework, exercises, creative time, play time and time on digital platforms. By creating a routine you are allowing children to know what to expect of the day. Being able to prepare for what is going to happen next, allows them to proactively regulate their emotions as well as their attention. Do this by working around schedules by respecting your children’s autonomy and being flexible during the whole transition process.

Children from preschool till about second grade are aware that their school schedules are something they can anticipate and plan around, a disruption in this predictable schedule can be a difficult adjustment. This is the case for everybody, teenagers who are probably used to managing their schedules and affairs, may only require minor help with their routine planning, but they still need prompting nevertheless. As any school going child’s cognitive flexibility is still developing, the transition from one task to another is particularly difficult. Having visual aids and proactive reminders can help children prepare in switching their attention to a different activity effectively.  

3: Creating study spaces and learning environment are important:

Children sometimes struggle with inhibiting their attention towards distractions, so trying to limit the distractions will help them focus better. Creating learning spaces that are distinct and separate from playing, eating, sleeping areas will help them; for example: removing distractors like Toys and Games, limiting background noise from TVs and podcasts, generally not allowing study time on beds and the like. Other members of the family must be made aware of the study environment that has been created. When people keep walking in and out of rooms during classes or during study time, it becomes difficult for children to flexibly switch their attention back to the work they were doing. Make sure they can have quiet study time, to limit the potential distractions caused by members of the household and other household activities.

4: Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation:

Socializing is important for children’s happiness and their overall development. It is already difficult enough for children to remain indoors, and social distancing will make children feel disconnected from their friends and peers.  As parents we have to keep children connected with the proper use of Technology: video calls or calls with friends and extended family is a fantastic solution for maintaining human connection and helping children socialize in the time of social distancing without being socially isolated.

5: Harnessing your children’s interests is important to engage them in new activities:

Staying indoors, most children take to watching TV or playing video games endlessly, which might not be a healthy alternative to play. It is important to talk to your children about their likes, skills that they would like to learn, and investigate real and virtual possibilities of achieving this. You could teach children skills and games that you enjoy. Take time for them as their ability to sustain and direct attention increases across time, so it is useful to plan activities with your child’s attention skills in mind, to avoid children from becoming bored and experiencing conflict with family or being stressed and frustrated at times.

These are some other activities that are said to keep brain health positive and development healthy while at home:

• Though this might feel like something that you heard over and over again, but is still very essential.  Research says that drinking water is the most important activity for improving brain health.

• Painting is one of the best creative activities for boosting brain functionalities while we are indoors.

• Music is one of the easiest ways of boosting brain health at home. When people listen to or play music, the entire brain lights up with increased neural activity.

• Exercise and moving around regularly have been found to strengthen the brain memory, boost mood, and ensure that your brain has a strong blood supply.

• Having proper rest and efficient sleep is important for the consolidation of experiences and ideas. It also plays a critical role in memory and to enhance attention, problem solving and creativity.

• Checkers and Chess are games that also help in problem solving, memory, concentration.

• Solving puzzles: doing a puzzle each day can improve attention, reasoning as well as memory.

• Wise use of Technology: social media platforms today can boost social connections, enhance mood, sometimes you might also require learning new skills and engaging fine motor ability to operate on new technologies.

• Yoga and meditation or being alone and in Silence itself promotes development in the hippocampus, which is the region in the brain that impacts memory, emotion and the nervous system.

At Sherwood High we believe that, along with the above said things, it is imperative to acknowledge how your child is feeling and to help them develop resilient emotional responses. By helping them in problem solving, you are paving a path forward together. Parents need to regulate their own emotions to teach children self-efficacy during these challenging Times. Children do observe keenly, the way parents respond to changing environment and landscapes. So parents need to be role models for children not only by staying strong but also by being calm during difficulty. It is natural to have frightening degrees of anxiety during these uncertain times, but what matters most is to recognize what is important and staying connected while following all the safety protocols.

The brain is our most complex organ in our body, which is responsible completely for our thoughts, actions, feelings, memory, attentiveness and literally everything. It is important that we do our best to maintain its strength and longevity, in order to live efficiently. 

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