Health Tips For Home School Stress
If you and your kids reside in one of the many school districts that have decided to continue online classes for the fall semester, you might already be feeling the pressure build.
Last spring, schools closed across the nation in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. At that time, you may have hunkered down with your kids at home. You may have kept them on top of their school curriculum while also working from home. You might have gotten a crash course in juggling homeschooling and keeping your household running smoothly. Heck, you might be an expert by now!
Whether you are or aren't, the thought of tackling another round of educating the kids and keeping your own career--and sanity--going strong could very well be causing the internal pressure to mount…
We're talking about stress. But as stressful as the pandemic has made our lives, there's a lot you can do to reduce the overwhelming feelings and manage your kids' schedule, academics, and activities, as well as your own professional responsibilities. We have some health tips to help eliminate homeschooling-related stress and help you put the "ease" back in "people pleaser".
INVEST IN LEARNING STATIONS
When a child leaves the home environment and enters an academic one at their school, it does wonders for mentally gearing him or her up to learn. This kind of change in surroundings has been said to trigger shifts in a child's attention that can increase their enthusiasm for what's to come. For example, the routine of tucking your little one into bed at night and cracking open a children's book can automatically trigger drowsiness in your child. Whereas, you might notice as you drive your kids over to the soccer field that they get energized and lively. Kids associate certain places with distinct tasks or activities.
So how do you make your living room--a place where the kids are used to watching movies and roughhousing--a new classroom where they will be expected to pay attention, learn, take exams, and read new educational materials?
Try transforming the space as much as possible. You might be able to invest in new desks for the kids, partition dividers that provide privacy, and comfortable chairs which will help them stay alert and engaged. You know your children better than anyone and you can tailor their homeschooling station to best support their academic performance. Are there several rooms in your home? Can you arrange each household room and move your child from the "math classroom" to the "earth science classroom" to the "spelling, grammar, and composition classroom"? If you involve your kids in the creation, set-up, and decoration of their "classrooms" or "learning stations", they will be all the more invested in what goes on there. And best of all, by providing your children with their own spaces, you will ensure separate space for yourself where you can stay on top of your work-from-home responsibilities while your kids do their homework.
TAKE FRESH AIR BREAKS
Fresh air and sunshine are extremely important to the immune system and maintaining a positive mood. Even before the pandemic struck, the average person barely got enough Vitamin D daily, otherwise known as direct sunlight. Stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and newly rearranged lifestyles that revolve around leaving the house only when it's absolutely necessary have put both parents and children in the unfortunate position of getting far less fresh air and sunshine. This isn't ideal for mental health and it certainly isn't ideal for learning.
How can you provide your growing children with adequate fresh air and sunlight when even during back-to-school time, some parks and playgrounds remain locked up?
First of all, take a deep breath. Your kids aren't houseplants and they won't wither and die if they aren't exposed to direct sunlight for 14 hours a day. A healthy place to start is to model your at-home schooling day with what your children were used to when they attended school regularly. It's likely that they had a recess block after lunch, which was spent outside playing a game, and they also had a physical education class that was probably outside whenever the weather was good. Depending on where you live--a city, the suburbs, or the rural countryside--you might try picking an outdoor location for lunch. You have to eat, too, so make an outing of it, bring a picnic basket packed with Sweetly recipes you've made, and be sure to play a game after the meal so that you and the kids get at least 30 minutes of fresh air and sunshine.
MAINTAIN BACK-TO-SCHOOL ROUTINES
Every September, back-to-school season makes a big splash. There are new school outfits to buy, as well as notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, calculators, and the list goes on and on. If your kids are involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, then the spending never ends. These shopping trips can be fun. They get the kids excited about the new school year and that enthusiasm becomes the fuel that helps keep them engaged and doing their best in the classroom. Then, once the school week is in full swing, both you and your children grow accustomed to the day-to-day routine as autumn settles over your household.
Just because the pandemic has altered your day-to-day life doesn't mean that you can't maintain a healthy back-to-school routine with your kids, starting with the fun back-to-school shopping that has always gotten them excited.
Even though first-period is going to happen in your living room--or basement or backyard--instead of a school building, doesn't mean you should let your kids roll out of bed and begin their classwork in their pajamas. In fact, keeping the morning routine of getting fully dressed first thing in the morning is really important for morale. If you can afford it, take the kids to the local outlet mall and buy them a new fall look. This will motivate them to start their days just as they would if the pandemic had never happened. Plus, you want your kids to look presentable if and when their classes are held on Zoom. Just as you can maintain their morning routines, you can also maintain their after school routines, especially if they practice sports or have a musical lesson or some other activity. Depending on your area, many of these extracurricular activities are happening, albeit with social distancing in place and, in some cases, mandatory face masks.
BUY HEADPHONES TO MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
One of the hardest jobs a teacher has in the classroom setting is to minimize distractions. Asserting the classroom rules, upholding consequences when rules are broken, and assuring that the academic environment truly is conducive to learning can be quite a tall order when it's one adult against 20 or sometimes 30 kids. Good thing you don't have that many! But even if you only have one child, you'll still find upholding this aspect challenging. Without classroom rules and a quiet environment, however, not much learning is going to take place. Your kids need a space where they can focus on their studies without distractions, and if you're working from home, you'll also need a quiet house in order to stay on top of your tasks.
So how can you minimize distractions for your child so they can focus on taking their timed exams when at the same time you have to be on a conference call for work?
A good pair of headphones can do wonders for canceling out unwanted noises. Firstly, if your kids are taking Zoom classes, then they're going to need to hear their teachers and classmates loudly and clearly. Laptop and desktop speakers really can't compare with a pair of quality headphones. Once your kids are under their headphones with the volume raised, it should be pretty difficult for them to hear ambient noises coming from the next room. Even if you're overseeing homeschooling and your children aren't tapped into a virtual learning environment, investing in a pair of headphones will still prove very helpful. You can play "white noise" through the headphones so your child won't be distracted by your conference call or the sounds of you preparing lunch.
MAKE HEALTHY SNACKS WITH THE KIDS
There are both formal and informal learning opportunities in life. The pandemic hasn't changed this fact. If anything, it has enhanced it. Never before has there been such a chance to bond and connect with your kids. Not all learning takes place between the pages of a text book or in front of a computer screen. Simply putting lunch together with your children is a great time to impart some of your worldly wisdom. Have you talked to them about what this pandemic means for your family? Have you offered insight into the ways in which you would like to see each of them grow because of this difficult time? Your insights and also your attitude will influence your kids' perspective. If you prefer not to get too heavy, take meal prep time as an opportunity to educate your kids on the importance of eating healthy.
Reducing daily refined sugar intake and getting adequate exercise outside in the fresh air and sunshine is a great topic of conversation when you're making lunch or snacks with the kids. Check out the Sweetly Stevia Recipe Roundups for the quickest way to select fun, tasty recipes your kids will love.
When you invite your children into the process of choosing their healthy meals and making them, too, it will increase the likelihood that they will feel a sense of ownership over the task. Cooking together is a great way to break up the homeschooling day and bond as a family. Activities like these will help all of you remember to enjoy the moment and appreciate the more important things in life, like family, friends, and sugar-free sweets! The fact of the matter is that no one can prevent pandemics or control how they affect life as we've come to know it. All we can do is use them as an opportunity to strengthen our relationships and become closer than ever.
Now that we've shared some tips that were focused on your kids' experience of learning from home this semester, let's take a look at what you, as a parent, can do for YOU! We'll call this section The 3 S's--simplify, structure, and support.
Suddenly having the expectation placed on you that in addition to being a parent, you'll also need to be a teacher to your children can be overwhelming. If you're also managing a full-time, or even part-time, job that is also now remote, your stress level could shoot through the roof. It's perfectly alright during this time to give yourself a break and lower your expectations, otherwise known as simplifying. Doing your "best" is going to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, and that's okay. Keeping a calm, positive, and self-loving attitude will do more for your productivity and relationships than trying to reach for the same high bar you've set pre-pandemic.
As you keep calm and exercise a healthy degree of patience and positivity, you will also do yourself a huge favor if you organize a do-able, daily routine for yourself that is timed well with your kids' schedule. Rearranging your remote work schedule, if your employer allows it, can dramatically reduce your stress. For example, are you expected to email in your daily work report at 6pm every evening? If that's when the kids are the crankiest for dinner, then it might be worth it to ask your supervisor if those reports can come in either earlier in the day or after dinner. If you aren't comfortable asking for special arrangements in regards to your job, then consider getting the kids on a new schedule where they help you make dinner starting at 5pm so that they are seated and eating--and therefore occupied--while you type up your work report in the next room. The bottom line here is that once you lock into a structure that best supports your personal sanity, the longer you'll be able to sustain this new and challenging lifestyle.
Parents know how to support their kids. It's what they do. When your children are experiencing unexpected and negative emotions, your instinct is to help them to understand their feelings, help them to self-soothe and solve their own problems if possible, and help them to recover from the experience afterwards. But what about you? Do you have a support person, or system, in place that will be effective at catching you before you fall, or meltdown? Even though your friends and family are in the same quarantined boat and you might not be able to see them face-to-face, you can still stay connected. These days, everyone is a phone call--or a Facetime--away. Yes, we all have busy lives as always, but if you create a support system now, you'll save yourself from a lot of hair-pulling-stress later. Just having someone to talk to--and vent to--can do wonders in the long run.
These are truly extraordinary times we're living in. Being cramped in tight quarters can make us feel like we're in a pressure cooker. But the good news is that eventually this too shall pass. Before you know it, your kids really will be back-to-school in the traditional sense, and you'll be back to business as usual, as well. In the meantime, there will be no shortage of opportunities to make the most of each moment we spend with our children.
If you happen to live in a school district that is returning to normal this semester, check out our blog post Meal Prepping For Back To School for tips on cooking in bulk to save time in the long run. Sweetly Stevia posts regularly about health, fitness, and nutrition, so be sure to hit the subscribe button and be the first to know when a new article is published!