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Keep Calm and Parent On

By Patricia Tanya Franco Velasco, M.A. 

It is during this time that I am able to truly appreciate this quote from my favorite childhood educator Magda Gerber, “Go slowly and with great patience.” If there’s one thing that God has been constantly teaching me during this season, it is to take things slowly.

Ellie and julia featured images

Hammie and Cheesie playing independently

I’m sure every parent feels the same way—anxious, uncertain, trying to be strong for your family, but still hopeful. Most of you, especially working parents, are figuring out how this new setup would work. Endless questions running through your head such as “What am I feeling amid all of this and does my child really understand this pandemic?” “How can I make sure I’m productive and my child is productive too?” These wise words from Mr. Rogers are also very apt, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

I thought of these five guidelines that parents can use while we are in community quarantine.

  1. Slow down.

Now that we are not rushing from one commitment to another, we are given this gift of time to just stay still and be at home and be with our family. Appreciate this time that you have with them. Lois, a working mom and mother to two kids, shared, “I got to appreciate being still during this time. My children are adapting to slowing down and to this new life at home. I got to appreciate my chores more. It has become more peaceful at home. Despite a lot of work tasks that I need to submit online, I try to practice stillness.” It is true that children pick up our level of stress or peacefulness.

  1. Create Routines.

It helps to create a basic routine for your children, because it sets the rhythm for their day. It makes everything more predictable, easier for them, and easier for you as well. Kleng, a preschool teacher and a mom, shares that she involved her son in creating their home routine. “We thought of outlining the routines using the clock, and Zane was excited with this idea. He drew and wrote down what he can do throughout the day.”  I’ve adapted Teacher Kleng’s idea, and both my daughters enjoy this activity. It helps serve as a guide to how we’ll schedule our day. Basic routines could include: self-care activities (taking a bath and brushing teeth to packing away toys, outdoor play, music time, and so on). You can also include the daily household chores into your child’s daily schedule such as dishwashing, gardening, cleaning the toys.

Zane and Yuri enjoying some open-ended play

Zane and Yuri enjoying some open-ended play

  1. Observe more, Do Less, Enjoy Most. 

Instead of being pressured to keep on planning activities for the day, why not ask your child this question: “What is it that you like to do for today?” I think our children would appreciate it that they get to choose activities that are of interest to them. It’s so much more meaningful if an experience is child-directed or child-led. As a parent, you feel more relaxed, you need not have to keep on interfering with your child’s learning, because he is truly enjoying what he’s doing. Leah Mcdermott of Your Natural Learner, shared this beautiful insight, “Just play and spend time doing things you love because life is learning.”

Parents, make sure these are activities that are play-based and would really promote opportunities for exploration, creativity, and cooperation. Faye, a mom to three boys, shares this, “Morning bath time is water play time. Water play helps me when I feel so overwhelmed. They also like making fruit shakes. They prepare the ingredients earlier on and make them in the afternoon.”  Use this time to learn more about your children as you observe them, and provide just the right amount of help for your child.

Ellie and Julia's daily schedule

Ellie and Julia’s daily schedule

  1. Engaged vs. Entertained.

There’s a big difference between a child who is engaged versus a child who is entertained. A child who is engaged actively explores, investigates, and plays confidently. On the other hand, a child who is entertained is a passive recipient who needs to always be stimulated by another person, gadget, or toy. There is beauty in being bored. We don’t need to overly stimulate our children with so many toys. They become more creative when they get to be engaged even with the simplest objects, whether a box, water, or even sand. We need to trust our children more that they can stimulate and engage themselves.

Use open-ended objects (clay, paper, water, box, blocks, and sand) during this time as it allows children to play longer. Nature is the best source of these open-ended objects. If you have the opportunity to be outdoors (within the house premises), do so. It will be so good for your child. When it comes to gadget use, limit it. Anna, a working mom, suggests that “the ipad apps remain in timer mode so our son Liam can’t use it much. We also put the password on these apps.” Jac, a working mom, recommends that they use online websites that are educational.

  1. Be emotionally present.

I like what Ruth Anne Hammond said, “Just being in the same space doesn’t constitute real togetherness.” No matter how difficult it is to be fully present, make it a habit, to put away your phone and be there with your child. Play with your child, talk to your child, read a book to your child, listen to your child, and pray with your child. Enjoy this precious time.

Free drawing

Free drawing

For those working from home, it’s always going to be a challenge to do this as you need to attend to tasks apart from your family, but I like what Djong, a full-time working mom, shared, “I sometimes include my son Andres during meetings. Good thing, my team is cool with it,” adding that “I learned to work smart. I make important choices with my work. How soon do I need to submit it? Can I delegate it? Can I align it with someone later? Otherwise, no work gets to be done at all.”

I’m praying for all families during this time. May we keep on being hopeful, and embracing that resilient spirit that we, Filipinos, are known for. Please use this gift of time with your children wisely. Use this time to get to know them more, and for them to also be nourished by your presence and love. They grow up so fast. Let me share this beautiful quote from Magda Gerber, “Relax, and enjoy the wonders of (child) development.”

Patricia Tanya Franco Velasco or Teacher Tanya is an early childhood educator. She graduated with a degree in Family Life and Child Development from UP Diliman and received her M.A. in Human Development: Leadership and Education and Human Services in Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, California in the US. A preschool teacher for 13 years, she is also the CEO and co-founder of GURUFIRM, a training and consultancy company on early childhood education. When she’s not in the classroom, Teacher Tanya enjoys her primary role as a wife to her husband Mike and as a mom to her daughters, Ellie and Julia.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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