Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 12:15 pm

The number of memes joking about parents’ new-found appreciation for teachers disguises a real truth: already facing the challenge of their own anxieties in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, many mothers and fathers are battling with the juggle between maintaining their own deadlines and ensuring their children don’t fall behind with schoolwork.

ALSO SEE: 8 ways to master working from home during COVID-19

Bellavista School’s team of psychologists, therapists and teachers offer this expert advice to help you stay on track:

Keep a routine as far as possible.

We often undervalue the structure and calm that routine brings our lives – so, tempting though it may be to sleep in, you’ll all feel far less anxious if you set a regular wakeup time, shower, dress and brush teeth. Obviously, there’s room for flexibility: if you’re a family of night owls, you can set the alarm a little later. Your routine may also have to be amended to accommodate activities that wouldn’t usually take place, like a YouTube yoga session or a family meal together, where you can discuss any fears and anxieties that your child may be experiencing. Children thrive on routine, and with all the uncertainty and anxiety that surrounds us at the moment, all the more reason to keep a routine.

ALSO SEE: Building a routine for your kids during COVID-19

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Create a conducive workspace for your child.

Ideally, this should be in a quiet space in the house free from distractions like the TV, with good light and fresh air, and it should be reserved for homework. If you can set this up alongside your own workspace, so much the better – this will allow you to check in on how your child is progressing from time to time.

Accept that distraction is inevitable.

The normal school day doesn’t require your child to sit still and concentrate for 5 hours: there’s time to play, time to stretch and time to snack in between all those lessons. The same should hold true at home. You’ll more than likely find that your child’s attention starts to wander after a while so let them get up, have a play outside, and take time for a bit of a chat. It may help to stick the day’s schedule on the wall or somewhere else where it is visible. A visual timetable for the younger children really helps to manage their constant naggings! Make sure that this schedule allows for breaking tasks into manageable chunks. Also, understand that when the novelty of learning from home wears off, your child may struggle with self-discipline. At times like this, it helps to abide by the old saying: pick your battles. Choose some non-negotiables, and let other matters lie. These are, after all, extraordinary times.

Make use of the online resources at your disposal.

It’s probably been a long time since you did Grade 10 algebra, so don’t beat yourself up for not knowing everything. After all, you’re not a teacher and don’t, therefore, have the requisite skills. Luckily for you, the people who do are just a phone call away – most teachers have made themselves available via Zoom or WhatsApp. And if they haven’t, a YouTube tutorial is just a click away.

ALSO SEE: 3 free online education resources for South African kids

Understand that you can’t do it all.

If you have children of different ages, overseeing all their work is impossible – so don’t try. Stagger time with them as far as possible, but if this is creating more stress, let it go. Your family will be far better off if you concentrate your energies on fostering connection and creating an environment that feels safe in the midst of anxiety. And don’t worry about their falling behind – you can be sure that schools will make a concerted effort to catch kids up when schools return. What’s more, you’d be surprised at how much learning there is to be gleaned from carrying out simple household tasks like cooking, so involve your kids in these activities as far as possible.

Accept that some rules may have to be relaxed.

This isn’t the time to be draconian about screen time, for example. A little extra time on a device may give you an extra hour to get chores done or meet that deadline. What you can do, though, is make your children ‘earn’ those hours; for example, by completing chores or an hour of schooling. And, as always, make sure that the platforms your children are accessing are appropriate.

Get creative.

If your child would technically be on holiday now, you can stop the schoolwork and let them enjoy what would have been a natural break in their studies. Although you can’t go out to enjoy these ‘holidays’, there are a wealth of free online resources available to feed their curiosity, from virtual game drives to tours of the world’s most famous museums. Use the internet in other ways, too. For example, if your child resists the idea of reading (a critical building block for other academic skills), download an audio book. Or allow them to page through recipe books.

ALSO SEE: Audiobook resources

Address anxiety

You can be sure that your children have picked up on the stress you’re experiencing, but try to minimise this by limiting their exposure to TV and social media content they won’t understand. Encourage them to voice their concerns so that you can talk through them. Be open and honest about what’s happening but keep these explanations high level and age appropriate.

ALSO SEE: How to talk to your kids about the coronavirus and the lockdown

Bellavista School is a private remedial school in Johannesburg. For more information and to access support tools, visit www.bellavistashare.org.za