With Shelter in Place orders all over the world, the Coronavirus has upset all of our lives. How can we help children cope with the fear and uncertainty when school is closed indefinitely?
Children are highly attended to the world around them, and the degree to which they pick up on fear and stress is often lost on well-meaning adults. That’s because even when kids aren’t capable of cognitively understanding the implications of a traumatic event, they are able to sense that something is wrong on an emotional level. Little kids’ mirror neurons are always firing when they observe the important adults in their lives and they not only sense but also really feel and experience these adults’ anxieties for themselves.
So don’t be mistaken—kids know what’s up. And that’s why it’s very important for adults to step in and prepare the world environment to help children process difficult experiences.
Routine As a Foundation
Is the Coronavirus pandemic a traumatic event? Absolutely. Even if we don’t know anyone who catches the virus, everyone’s world has been completely uprooted and no one knows what to expect. Many families are facing financial strain, which kids will inevitably pick up on at least to some extent. The routines we once took as guaranteed have suddenly evaporated, and no one feels that more than kids.
Little kids thrive in a familiar environment where they know what to expect. They love to have ownership of their belongings and the events that make up their day, whether that means choosing an outfit and getting themselves dressed, preparing their own snacks, or knowing what three o’clock looks like and getting ready to go home when they see it. If dance is on Thursdays they want to know what day today is, and if the scissors go in the blue cup in the craft corner, they want to help clean up.
Because routine provides a safe haven for children, it’s best to implement some kind of structure into their days and hold onto whatever you can continue offering, even during times of uncertainty. For example, if a teacher always reads a story after lunchtime, she might encourage parents to repeat this routine at home when school is closed.
Practical Life At Home
When schools are closed, teachers will often offer some type of distance learning. Remember not to expect parents to be trained Montessori guides, while also trusting them and empowering them as their child’s first and most important teacher.
Parents should be encouraged to focus on practical life lessons when schools are closed. This is not at all implying that they are not equipped to reach other subjects, however. Practical life makes so much sense because home is where life happens! There are countless opportunities for littles ones to learn about and help with the jobs their parents do at home, in the kitchen, in the workshop, or out in the yard.
Nature study is also perfect for families to do together in their backyards, if that’s something they have access too.
Encourage Parents to Trust Themselves
Parents need reminders to follow the child, to teach kids what they do in their own daily routines, and to make things physically accessible for small hands and short legs.
They also need encouragement from teachers and to be reminded that even when schools are closed, we are all in this together!