parentBy Marijke Jones

Hi everyone! How’s everybody doing out there in “remote learning” (i.e., enforced homeschooling) land?

Yeah, I know. It sounds like everyone’s pretty much right there with you, so you’re in good company.

Recently, Dr. Robin McEvoy of Child Decoded shared a great vlog on what the priorities really are during this time, and ways to continue learning even if you’re not following the curriculum exactly.

I wanted to share some more thoughts on how your children may be responding to the global situation right now, and how that may affect their learning.

SENG (Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted) just put out a newsletter promoting an online seminar on trauma-informed learning that I thought was right on target. The promotion included such gems as the following:

“Gifted children, just like all children living through times of trauma, benefit from educational practices that meet their academic needs as well as their social-emotional needs. Simply: Children cannot learn if they do not feel physically, emotionally, or psychologically safe.

This would be a good time for parents to take that last sentence to heart. Things are unpredictable, difficult, and unstable right now. Community and national stress at this level actually becomes palpable, a phenomenon that is hard to explain or quantify but that most people instinctively know is true.

For example, I work from home. Sure, I go out for various reasons and I miss that right now, but the core of my daily routine hasn’t really changed that much. I get up, do some yoga, eat breakfast, plan my day. Then I go into my home office and try to make myself produce a certain amount before I let myself forage in the fridge or go for a walk. Rinse; repeat.

The day after we all went on lockdown, I went through the exact same steps, but was viscerally aware that everything felt completely different. Eerie, anxious, a little dystopian. I felt uneasy and restless.  I spent much of the first week just talking to others about how we all felt like we’d dropped into the Twilight Zone.

Don’t think your child isn’t picking up on that too.

So, if you’re struggling to keep your children on track, it’s not that you’re a terrible homeschool mom or your child is impossible. Everything’s just going to be harder right now. Accepting that will help everyone be calmer about it.

SENG’s promotion continues with an insight about gifted kids, who are often more sensitive and perceptive than they can really handle:

“Gifted students who possess a deep sense of justice or empathy for others may not be available to learn at the same rate and depth as before the pandemic started. Reassuring these children that it’s okay if their learning slows down will be critical to their overall health, well-being, and ability to successfully return to academics once the coronavirus crisis passes.

I think ALL children could benefit from this awareness. We’re all stressed for many reasons, and this will inevitably affect your child’s ability to concentrate and learn.

We are experiencing a collective trauma, and your children are as much a part of that as you are. (Several life chapters ago, I was a therapist specializing in trauma.) Anxiety on this scale derails you; brain function literally shifts when you’re stressed. Your brain is too busy scanning for danger to let you settle down. It takes a lot of intervention and awareness to get it to switch gears and regain your access to higher cognitive function.

Although children understand this pandemic and its threats less than adults, many of them probably feel it more. They don’t understand it, and no doubt are unaware of their increased anxiety related to it. This isn’t something most of them are going to be able to discuss.

But they can feel your anxiety, and the magnified anxiety of the world in general is undoubtedly impacting them as well.  The very fact that this stress is not related to a clear, identifiable source in their lives makes it even more insidious and difficult to process.

Be aware that they are going through this very anxious time with little understanding, awareness or tools to support them. They probably need a little extra mom-ing right now. Whether that means snuggling, playing with them, or extra (calm) discipline, they need to know that life will go on and you’ve got them.

This includes being in tune with what they’re showing you they need. Like Robin said in her video, “If they’re crying, no learning is happening.” Respond to the cues that they need a break; they may need breaks often. This is actually normal under the circumstances.

They (and you!) may need extra breaks for movement, play or being outside. Let them have it. Physical movement, in particular, is so important right now to release stress. Then bring them back to their tasks. How much can realistically get done in a day may change daily. Let it.

I’m not saying to stop worrying about schoolwork. Quite the opposite, actually. There is reassurance in a steady routine, and theirs has been hugely disrupted. Reestablishing it is paramount. But be aware, as you do, that the new routine needs to involve awareness of their emotional state and needs. It’s important that the schedule come from a place of calm and steadiness rather than “oh my God, you need to get all this done!!”

Of course, there’s also your state of mind to take into account. Who’s taking care of you so you can give them extra care? It’s a good time to take a look at that! Do your own self-care as much as possible – this is a time to lean on friends, family, spouses, exercise, chocolate, whatever soothes you and gives you energy. Then share your calm.

We all need to maintain the awareness that this is a very weird, very sneakily stressful time. Hold yourselves and your children with extra gentleness.