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These are certainly unusual times as our social norms, our lifestyles and the way we do business have been forced to change in a very short timeframe. One of these significant changes has been education. Whilst our nation’s leaders have been contending with the most difficult of decisions, based on the best expert advice and information they have available, schools have been busy in the background preparing for the potential need for a completely new model of education delivery.

With Queensland schools moving to pupil-free days (with the exception of children of essential workers) next week, we are getting a preview of what school life may look like going into Term 2. 

Schools have faced two challenges in recent days. Firstly, how to continue to deliver curriculum to both students in class, and to those who have selected to stay at home. Parents, understandably, are anxious to ensure that children who are at home are not disadvantaged, and schools have been working incredibly hard to manage this challenge. The second challenge schools have faced is the potential of shifting curriculum delivery to a completely online model. At first, this may seem to be fairly seamless, until you consider subjects such as Music, Physical Education, Hospitality, Drama, Science and a list of other subjects that have a large practical, hands-on component to the curriculum, both in primary and secondary schools. Creativity and innovation have emerged in this situation, with teachers developing ways and means of ensuring continuity of learning, wherever possible.

For parents and students, the prospect of learning from home may be daunting, particularly with the backdrop of the mainstream media and social media landscape. The following may assist parents with managing this challenging time.

Try to maintain perspective

While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible. It is also very important that we convey this message to our children. 

Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it is important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.

Access good quality information

It is important to get accurate information from credible sources. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control. Choose one reputable source and try to limit yourself to referring to this source rather than checking multiple sources.

Try not to make assumptions

To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.

There will be additional stressors and anxiety for each of us if we are to enter a period of self-isolation or quarantine.

There are a number of ways to support both your own and your child’s wellbeing during periods of self-isolation or quarantine:

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus and that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
  • Establish and keep a regular routine for yourself and family, including sleep wakeup and bedtimes.
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, challenge yourself to try something new. 
  • Try to maintain physical activity, be creative around this.
  • When working or studying from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • Find ways to laugh together.

Seek support

It is normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news of the outbreak. 

  • Activate your support network – identify who you talk to, who is helpful for you.
  • Acknowledge feelings of distress both in yourself and notice signs of this in your children – think about how they display feelings of distress, it is not always in the ways we expect.
  • Seek professional support early if you’re having difficulties 

Talking with our children

It is understandable that we may be feeling vulnerable and at times confused about how best to respond. Parents may especially be ruminating over how they choose to protect and support their child/ren, not only from the virus itself, but from the fear, worry and at times panic that can be associated. It is important to be open and honest with your child in an age appropriate way.

The following are some suggestions that may help inform your choices:

  • Open communication – choosing to talk to your child about the disease means that you have the opportunity, as their caregiver, to provide your child with factual and age-appropriate information about the situation and offer any reassurance if required. It means the child has the opportunity to ask you their questions, express their fears and worries, and for them to be addressed. 
  • Ensure that you allocate adequate time for the conversation and that you are calm when having the conversation. Your children will look to you and your response as a barometer to measure their own reaction.
  • Start by asking your child/children what they know and understand about Coronavirus. This can help guide your conversation and help you to address any misconceptions or concerns that they may have about the situation.
  • Be clear and focus on the facts. Try to avoid going into detail or giving too much information, especially with younger children.
  • Reassure them that as their parent, you and the other adults in their lives (such as their teachers) are keeping informed about the disease and making decisions to safeguard everyone’s health and well-being. Provide your child with the opportunity to take an active role in keeping themselves (and others) safe. This gives the child a sense of control and promotes resilience. 
  • Explain to the child that by choosing the following actions, they are choosing to be safe.
    • Washing your hands with soapy water for 20 seconds (or sing the Happy Birthday song twice) after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food, and
    • Following cough and sneeze etiquette i.e. covering your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. Using a disposable tissue to cover your mouth or nose if possible and immediately disposing of the tissue afterward. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. 
  • Try to keep your child’s daily structure as normal as possible such as mealtimes, bedtimes, learning times.
  • Try to minimise your child’s exposure to the news.
  • It is understandable that we need to connect with one another in our community, to talk through our fears and concerns with others. However, be mindful of your children overhearing your conversations regarding Coronavirus. As their parent, your child will look to you to provide that sense of safety. They need to hear consistent positive messages from you or may become worried you are ‘hiding’ things from them or ‘not being honest’. 
  • Practise self-compassion. Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to your children and others.
  • Please see the following link for advice from Dr Michael Carr-Gregg on this topic. It is an excellent resource – https://schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-coronavirus

Learning at home:

Parents are encouraged to: 

  • Establish routines and expectations
  • Define a space for your child to work in
  • Monitor communications from teachers
  • Encourage physical activity and/or exercise
  • Check in with your child/children throughout the day and remember that your child’s teacher and others will be available to help
  • Keep your children connected, whilst practising ‘social distancing’
  • Have conversations with your child/children about being safe online, privacy and online behaviour, particularly if schools are engaging in forms of video lessons.

Students are encouraged to: 

  • Establish and/or follow a daily routine for learning
  • Identify a safe, comfortable, quiet space in their home where they can work effectively and successful 
  • Monitor the school’s digital platforms and  communicate, as instructed by the Schoo,l for information and feedback from teachers
  • Complete tasks with integrity and academic honesty, doing their best work 
  • Do their best to meet timelines, commitments, and due dates 
  • Communicate proactively with their teachers if they cannot meet deadlines or require additional support

We thank the team at Townsville Grammar School for agreeing to create this blog, in order to assist our community.

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