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How to Support your Kids' Development During a Prolonged Lockdown: Op-Ed TORSTAR MEDIA /

I had the pleasure of sharing some parenting tips with readers across Ontario who follow print and digital publications from Torstar.

Here is my piece from May 12, 2020. (Click here for the web version.)

Jane Kristoffy, BA, BEd, MEd, OCT.

Educational Strategist & Owner, Right Track Educational Services

We’re now in the third month of school closures and social distancing, and many parents wonder how a prolonged lockdown may impact their children’s development.

While our current reality isn’t ideal, the vast majority of our kids are going to be just fine. After the pandemic is over, with consistent support from parents, most kids will bounce back to regular functioning.

There are many things parents can do at home, to continue to nurture their children’s healthy development. Here are some suggestions:

Provide consistent, caring, and unconditional support.

Reassure your children that you’ve got their back and you’re continuing to protect them from dangers by maintaining physical distance. They may behave erratically due to fears about safety and the unknown. Talk openly about the pandemic, in an age-appropriate manner; children will feel empowered by the information. Validate their worries and fears, so they don’t regress or have difficulty with self-care, sleeping, or eating. Teach them relaxation strategies, and control all of the messages they get from media.

Continue consistent routines.

Routines provide a sense of safety, predictability and control in children. Maintaining routines can prevent increased demands for extra attention, irritability and clinginess, which can be children’s responses to stress. Set limits, and lay out daily plans for meal time, bed and bath time, play and learning. Get your children to take an active role in helping out in your home to improve their self-efficacy.

Encourage play.

Play games with your children, permit online gaming with friends, and encourage solo play as parts of their day. Through play, children make sense of the world around them. They develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence they need to engage in new experiences and environments. Avoid boredom for little ones, because it could invite worry and disruptive behaviours. Keep an eye on “screen time” to avoid addictive habits, but be flexible under the circumstances.

Keep your kids socially connected.

Make sure they can visit with grandparents, extended family, and friends in some way: using virtual hangouts, phone calls, texting and writing letters. Continue remote learning as much as possible so they can see their teachers and classmates daily. Quality time with important people in their lives is crucial, especially for young children. Social connectedness increases children’s resilience to adversity.

Take care of yourself first.

Use the airplane safety message now: put on your own oxygen mask before those of dependent children. Without practicing some level of regular self-care, you may burnout! You won’t be able to take care of others. Children are sensitive; they’re susceptible to their parents’ stress. Caregivers need adequate sleep, exercise, and balanced nutrition in order to support others. Prioritize your mental, emotional, and physical health so you can be there for loved ones who need you.

Will the pandemic have long lasting negative effects on young children’s development?

Even in the face of severe stress, most children will be resilient. By offering consistent support, social connection, routines, and balanced play at home, you can help your children thrive, in spite of our current reality.

Jane Kristoffy BA, BEd, MEd, OCT is an educational strategist, public speaker, and the owner of Right Track Educational Services in the Toronto. She helps students K-12 (remotely & in-person) find their academic direction, strengths, and passions. @jane_right_track (Instragram)


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