Answers to Common Questions During COVID-19 Crisis
In uncertain times it can be difficult to know how to help children thrive and how to manage the family’s adjustment to a new ’normal’. There is no instruction manual - we’re all flying a little blind here. We asked child development expert Dr. Amanda Gummer to answer some of the most common questions parents have been asking, including:
- What can I do to help my family manage stress and anxiety?
- How can I keep my child learning?
- How can we stay connected with virtual play?
Dr. Amanda Gummer is an internationally respected psychologist specializing in child development and play. We asked her to share some advice for parents to help them cope during a crisis.
Q: What can I do to manage stress and anxiety affecting my entire family during this time?
Amanda: Communicate! It’s the most important thing - with each other, and digitally with the outside world. Communication happens naturally through play - children relax and open up about their feelings and everyone find it easier to talk when they are relaxed and sharing an activity. Imaginative role play can help younger children explore their feelings and give you a chance to address some of their anxieties. Try not to let adult worries about money or job security become the children’s worries - make sure you get support with your own worries from other adults. Try and restrict the amount of news you have on - it can add to anxiety and children may catch pieces of it without understanding the whole issue.
Q: My child’s school is closed. How can I keep them learning at home? Any tips on setting up a virtual schooling space?
Amanda: First, you want to make sure your child is happy and healthy and whilst things are still getting sorted out, don’t stress too much about formal education. Children learn a lot through play and if they are stressed and anxious, they won’t learn well anyway. Try playing games that have educational aspects to them but don’t ignore all the soft skills such as communication, empathy, problem solving etc. - all of which are developed well via a healthy balanced play diet.
Q: My kids have been missing their friends. Do you have any ideas for virtual play and hosting virtual kid-friendly get-togethers?
Amanda: Digital communication platforms such as Skype and Facetime are great for keeping in touch with friends. As well as arranging to chat in real time, there are things you can do individually and send to your friends - videos of you doing a dance, photos of pictures you’ve drawn and it’s a great way to encourage children to collaborate on school work if they have been set some. Try scheduling a virtual disco or teddy bear’s picnic - having a theme makes it more fun and easier for children to engage with.
Q: Can you share a few different math skill building play ideas for different grade levels?
Amanda: There are lots of card games that involve math skills from simple number recognition and counting of the spots on the cards, to games that involve multiplying and other math’s functions. Playing shops is great for young children - the more able mathematician can be the shop keeper and work out the process in his/her head, give the right change etc. and the younger or less mathematically able can be the shopper and work out if he/she has enough money.
There are lots of great math apps games too.
Q: How do I make sure my kid does not lose the skills they were working on in school?
Amanda: Kids learn quickly. Let the school lead on this but keep reading with your child and making any learning fun. We may all be stuck inside with our kids for a while so the important thing is to thrive as a family first and any skills that the children were learning at school can easily be relearned.