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Wellbeing in primary school aged kids during COVID-19

What can parents of children aged 6-12 do to support their wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic? In our second episode of Parenting in the age of coronavirus podcast, internationally-recognised child health researchers and paediatricians from MCRI provide useful tips on screen time, education in the home and keeping connected.  Listen to episode 2:

For parents and carers of kids at primary school, life during COVID-19 can be demanding. Many parents are juggling the necessities of normal daily life, along with physical-distancing restrictions, working from home and supervising remote learning. 
The pressure right now is enormous, but we’re all only human. Be kind to yourself and take the pressure off wherever you can.

Follow your kids’ cues. During the primary school years, children do a huge amount of physical, mental and intellectual development. This will mean that the conversations you have with them about this time of restrictions are going to be vastly different for early primary kids than they are for late primary. It’s important to listen carefully and respond honestly in an age-appropriate way. 

It’s also essential to correct misinformation and misunderstandings. Lots of kids are very frightened that they or their friends and family are going to get sick. Be honest and clear with them and have conversations about what they’re hearing and understanding from media and friends.

Help your kids to play their part. Most primary school kids are keen to do the right thing. You can emphasise that we are all helping to protect older and vulnerable people by staying home, washing hands well, physical distancing and avoiding touching our faces.

You don’t need to be the teacher. Lots of kids have moved to learning from home, and when you are working from home too, the challenges are huge! Remember that your child’s teachers studied and trained for years to do their jobs, you’re not expected to replace them. Stay in regular contact with your child’s school and teachers for feedback and advice, and email directly if you have concerns.

Build a routine. School is a really structured environment with regular breaks built into the day. Give older primary students the opportunity to design the order they want to work in and to build a routine that can achieve their daily study goals. All kids will benefit from regular breaks to get outside, stretch their legs and burn off some steam.

Praise, praise, praise. Ensure your kids hear you recognise the effort they’re making. Part of learning is not getting things right the first time. Praising their efforts can help your child get over the disappointment and keep trying.

Watch the screens. Limits on daily screen time are almost impossible when kids are learning at home. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the quality of that screen time, and to encourage balance between screen time and outdoor, physical time.

It’s also important to maintain awareness of what our kids are looking at online, in a way that makes it part of normal interaction so they don’t feel spied on. Check in on what your kids are accessing and talk about the content. A website called CommonSenseMedia.org provides age-based media reviews so you can do a safety check of content ahead of time and make sure you’re comfortable.

Welcome to virtual playdates. Friendships are vital for primary school kids and help them to build a sense of belonging. Zoom chats and supervised WhatsApp groups for texting can be terrific for older primary kids. For younger primary, you might be surprised how long your six year old can spend chatting with friends on a video call! It can be a terrific chance to play Lego and share stories together.

Some kids and parents will experience stresses through the pandemic that need extra help. Your GP is offering telehealth appointments and that’s the best place to go first. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek the support you need.

Helpful links:

Parenting in the age of coronavirus podcast series
MCRI COVID-19 
raisingchildren.net.au
Beyond Blue 
Kids helpline
1800 Respect