This column has recently focussed on how families are coping with the learning from home requirements during the current COVID restrictions.
Without a doubt, it is a tough time for many. While some parents may manage the expectations, others are struggling through as best they can, often while also trying to work from home.
The good news is that the spring school holidays have now kicked in across NSW. The final day of term 3 was September 17. So put the school work aside.
Of course another of the challenges of the current stay at home requirements has been the impact on socialisation. Many adults are struggling with this, so striving to help children cope with a situation that has significantly impacted their social environment would be an added burden for parents.
In fact, in normal times children love the opportunity for a day away from school and are even more excited by the prospect of school holidays. But the current situation may well have many youngsters eager to get back to the classroom and the playground because they are missing their friends.
There are also the after school and extra-curricula activities that bring young ones together for fun, competition and social connection, that cannot currently be enjoyed.
These spring school holidays could unfortunately feel like more of the same for youngsters - the same people seen every day, the same location and the same answer every time they asked to see a friend - no. The concept of school holidays may not be truly appreciated and the words "I'm bored" have the potential to become a cliche, while stress levels for all in a household could rise.
Clearly the situation is not ideal, but there are some things you can do. Last week I offered a few ideas on fun ways to help children learn. This week I look at options for keeping children connected with their friends while sticking to the rules. And as a segue into these suggestions I would like to say "thank goodness for technology."
- I was recently chatting to a colleague worried about creating a memorable celebration for her daughter who was celebrating her 13th birthday. Due to restrictions the concept of a teenager birthday party was out of the question so my colleague got a little creative.
She decided to put together a birthday party package and deliver these to the front door of each of the friends her daughter would have invited to a party had it been an option. Some sweet treats, popcorn, chips, a cup cake and a little gift for each guest formed the basis of this package. The group then met up on Zoom so that they could connect with each while watching a movie selected by the birthday girl.
The celebration proved a hit with all and provided the young teens with the chance for some connection with friends and memories of a fun celebration.
Such a fun activity doesn't need to be set aside for birthdays only. This could be the alternative to a school holiday sleepover. Who doesn't love a movie night?
- Another great idea I heard about recently was an initiative that also had educational benefits with a reflection on the past.
Having a pen pal was once something enjoyed by many young people. The letter writing activity helped people connect to others around the world. All you needed to do was write letters to each other, share stories and even photos.
The concept of pen pals is not the popular choice in more recent times. The immediacy of connection through technology such as Face Time, Skype, Zoom and similar means that people not only can engage with others almost anywhere in the world, but they can see each other in real time.
But for anyone who ever had a pen pal, or sent or received a letter, the excitement of that communication cannot be dismissed. Maybe youngsters could spend some time sending letters and photos to their friends - just for something different.
- Of course, taking time to skype, FaceTime or Zoom in for a catch up with a group of friends for a chat and some laughs is always a great option during times of lockdown. Again, thank goodness for technology. I have done this with friends and family and we call it happy hour - although the catch up is always longer that an hour.
- While technology is a key to connection in these current restricted times, getting into the great outdoors for a walk, ride or even a picnic is equally important. Fresh air is a great remedy for lockdown blues, regardless of age. Better still it is a great way to help young ones burn some energy and forget about their boredom.
- Maybe they could even engage in some outdoor activity with one other friend, as is permitted under the current COVID regulations. Depending on the age of a child, a ride, skateboard or kicking a ball at a nearby sporting oval could be just what young ones need to feel connected with their friends.
Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.