Supporting Children Post-COVID

There is significant evidence that COVID, lockdowns, remote learning, intensive news coverage, financial strain and unsettled family and work lives have had a profound effect on children’s development.

Socially, emotionally, educationally, mentally and physically, most schools are reporting increased challenges in supporting the return to healthy development. Children do not seem to be as resilient as we would usually expect.

Schools are working very hard to support children and to help restore desired standards of learning. We are helping children with their social development and teachers are scaffolding students as they re-establish attention, concentration, organisation, perseverance, relationships with teachers and handling homework and assessments.

We are finding that many students need explicit instruction and practice for skills that previously would develop and evolve quite naturally. Some children have said, “I just don’t know how to be friends anymore!”

Parents can also support children to re-establish their developmental paths. Some suggestions are:

  • Reconnect or commence extra-curricular activities. Many students stopped sport, dance, drama, ballet, calisthenics, martial arts, athletics and other interests, or they missed opportunities to take up these pursuits. Parents need to make specific efforts to re-engage their children with these activities.
  • Establish and maintain good sleep hygiene. Lockdowns, remote learning and Christmans holidays allowed students to stay up late and sleep in and Circadian rhythms have been disrupted. But sleep is a priority—children need at least eight hours per day and even more for younger children.
  • Many children have increased their use of technology. Parents did too! Parents have told me they allowed their children to play more games and spend more time than usual watching YouTube and television. Winding that back to appropriate levels can be challenging, but it’s necessary. Once their devices are removed, it is amazing how quickly children find other activities. Parents can set the right example by monitoring their own use of mobile phones and social media. Remember that it’s also better for technology to be used in communal areas.
  • Many of us became more sedentary during lockdowns but bringing back regular exercise is vital. As a family walk the dog, go to the local park or beach, garden and be active again.
  • Some parents have commented to me that during lockdowns when children were learning online and parents were working from home, families were in separate areas of the house. Restore communal activities like family meals, getting together to share the day’s events, and sharing cooking, gardening and home renovations. They are all important bonding events. Parents need to spend time with their children.
  • Re-connect with neighbours and extended family. Some of us are out of the habit of socialising and visiting family and friends so invite people back into your home.
    Meeting with other children outside of school is a great way to extend friendships and share extra-curricular activities. Team activities are really necessary for healthy development.
  • Help children with homework and study timetables and prioritise school attendance and school activities. Show interest in their school work and ask them how their test went or have they finished a certain project. Communicate with your child’s teachers about any concerns.
  • We are seeing more students in sick bay, more students wanting to go home for minor complaints and more parents excusing school attendance for what can be minor or insignificant issues. When we evaluate what contributes to success for children, school attendance is incredibly important. We may need to help our children develop resilience by ensuring they persevere with school even in the face of minor challenges. Perhaps a bit of ‘tough love’ is necessary at times because when it comes to school, it’s not okay to stay away!

In summary, it’s clear there is no such thing as a ‘new normal.’ As parents and as educators we need to help restore our children to healthy life paths because children will not just bounce back by themselves.

I welcome your comments or feedback.