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McCleary Psychological Services
MPS Recommendations to Manage Extended School Closures

# 1 Maintain a Structured Routine: Most children are probably expressing outward excitement about not having to go to school. But it has long been understood that in order to feel safe in this world, children need routine and structure. Keep in mind that despite your best efforts as parents to limit the information your children are exposed to, these unprecedented closures are likely to generate a sense of uncertainty.

# 2 Establish And Maintain A Consistent Time To Wake Up And Go To Bed: While you may not want to continue to wake up at six in the morning if you don’t absolutely have to, you may want to establish new reasonable times to wake up and go to bed that works for your family.  Regular sleep patterns reinforce good health and is highly recommended by pediatricians.

# 3 Establish An Academic Schedule: Many websites are waving their fees in order to accommodate these unprecedented school closures.   Here is The Entire List Of Education Companies Offering Free Subscriptions Due To School Closings and Scholastic Learn at Home. My favorite educational website is IXL .

#4 Read, Read, Read! Encourage daily  reading.  This is a great article about Why It’s Important To Read Aloud With Your Kids, And How To Make It Count .

# 5 Target Other Important Aspects Of Education: As stressful as these recent events have been for most of us, it is always healthy to try to find opportunities within challenges.  Consider the following:

  • Teach Children Life Skills:  Studies show chores are good for children. Children gain a sense of competence when they do their chores. Click here for a Printable Age-By-Age Chore Chart .

  • Nurture the Arts: One of my favorite sources for free drawing classes for children is Art for Kids Hub .  Additionally, here is a list of 12 Famous Museums Offering Virtual Tours .  And, if your children are learning to play a musical instrument, remember to have them practice daily. They can also be encouraged to watch a play, musical, or concert on PBS .

  • Generosity and Citizenship: This may be a great time for your children to write letters to the elderly living in nursing homes or military members fighting for our freedoms .  As parents, we can also model citizenship by small acts of kindness.  For example, maybe next time you go to the store you can call your elderly neighbor and ask if they need something that you can leave at their door.  Not only are they the most at risk and in need of social distancing, but the recent hysteria purchasing has depleted many stores, limiting access to many essential items for this vulnerable population. 

  • Exercise: Encourage your children to go outside and play every day for at least an hour.  If you do not have access to a backyard, there are wonderful resources that provide access to healthy and fun exercise routines.  My absolute favorites are Cosmic Yoga and Kids Workout 1 Beginners By Moe Jones which you can do right in your living room.

  • Emotional Intelligence: Of course, the best way to teach children emotional intelligence is by modeling.  As a family, you can all (a) start a daily gratitude practice; (b) identify emotional problem-solving and coping strategies out loud; and, (c) acknowledge others perspective and empathize out loud.  Keep in mind that I keep saying “out loud” and I do so because I think as parents, we are already doing this, we just need to remember to say it out loud to facilitate modeling for our little ones. And lastly, my favorite: Play It Out! A book could be written about the power of imaginative play and it would not be enough. Imaginative play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It is also important to healthy brain development. And, while playing with siblings is very important, parent-child play has been shown to contribute more to a child’s ability to give structure to early social interactions than play with siblings.

  • Learn a New Skill: This may be the perfect time to help your children learn a new skill, like typing, musical instrument, new language, drawing, etc.  There are numerous online resources to learn new skills.

# 6 Parentified Siblings: With extended school closures many parents will rely on their older children to care for younger ones. Parentification is a family process that creates developmentally inappropriate expectations for older children to function in parental roles.  This is not recommended, but sometimes is unavoidable. If you must rely on older siblings to care for their younger one(s) while you are at work consider the following:

  • Step into your parental role as soon as you step into the home. 

  • Provide praise and support as needed to the child that is parentified.

  • Be reasonable and realistic with regards to your expectations. Do not overwhelm your oldest child.

  • Back up your parentified child.  If you are going to give an older child the responsibility to care for younger children, then you need to be prepared to support and back them up in a similar manner as you would any other co-parent.  At least in front of the younger siblings. While caring for children is hard and exhausting for anyone, it is a million times harder when the children have no respect for you or your authority.  If you feel that your oldest child does not have the basic skills to earn your support and backing, then find an alternative option.

# 7 Maintaining Social Connections:  While playdates and visits are not recommended, we can always encourage our children to call their friends to help them maintain their bond and provide healthy access to peers. Children can FaceTime or Skype or Zoom with their friends.  Encourage conversations or perhaps even play.

# 8  Screen Time? Maybe, just maybe, you will allow your children more screen time during these school closures.  I recommend that you be mindful about the programing they can access.  PBS and PBS KIDS always offer a wonderful selection of high-quality programming. I am not saying that you only adhere to these two channels or websites, rather what I want to emphasize is the need to be mindful and selective with regards to the kind of programming you are allowing your children to access. Consider putting access codes or passwords on content services, like Netflix or your cable box, or time limits on apps or device access so that you are involved in what your children are watching or playing.

# 9 Be Careful Of YouTube: YouTube is a double-edged sword with lots of great how-to content but also access to highly inappropriate material.  Monitor time on YouTube very closely.

NOTICE TO ALL PARENTS: Please remember that parenting is not a sport.  Be kind to yourself.