With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, schools all over the U.S. and the globe are sending students home for an indefinite period of time. As the virus evolves, it’s difficult to predict when the disease will be under control and plan for the weeks ahead. 

When your child is forced to stay home from school for health or safety reasons, there are several factors to take into account. Primarily, you’ll want to check in daily about your child’s feelings without raising alarm about the situation. If your child is old enough to use social media, they are probably already exposed to the sense of paranoia that spreads like wildfire online. Even if your child is too young to use social media or read the news, they might pick up on information from conversations you have with your partner or from the news. You’ll need to strike the right balance between validating their fears if they are scared and assuring them that they will be okay. If they share their fears with you, don’t make them feel ashamed to express worry or distress, but assure them that you and their school are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

 Additionally, there is the logistical concern: how do you fill up your children’s schedule? Command Education’s founder and CEO, Christopher Rim, has a piece of advice for parents: “Take advantage of this unstructured time to continue building valuable life skills and helping your student get ahead. Keep your children productive during this time! They should be using this time to get ahead rather than simply waiting for school to resume. Reading, staying active, getting ahead on long-term goals, mapping out their school plans – there are so many important things to be developing during this time.” 

Here is a list of Command’s recommended activities to do with your kids while they’re home from school!

1. Lead by example 

Your kids can sense your emotions, so they’ll know if you’re frustrated about the school cancellations or anxious about your family’s health and safety. In order to ensure their peace of mind, you can meditate daily to maintain a calm and composed demeanor. You can even do this as a family, using apps like Headspace to lead you and your kids in a guided meditation session. 

2. Structure their day

Kids are used to a rigid schedule in the classroom. If you’re not used to being home all day to watch your kids, this can be a difficult adjustment for you as well. Maintaining structure can in turn maintain a sense of normalcy. Simple things like making a chore schedule, assigning nights when your kids prepare dinner, and setting up a designated study time can help maintain order. In particular, determining study or school work hours will ensure that your kids don’t fall behind on their classes. At the beginning of each day, have each member of your family set their intentions for the day and sketch out what they plan to accomplish that day. Come evening time, take a moment to reflect on your days and share what they were able to accomplish. 

3. Fill your day with creative activities 

Rather than playing video games and sleeping until noon every day (even though catching up on sleep is definitely important!) encourage your kids to engage in bonding, creative, or productive activities. For example, play a board game as a family or work on a puzzle. Remind them to read books for fun, since they probably don’t have the time to do so when they are in school. Whether as a family or individual activity, your kids can make vision boards that help them take their minds off of their current stressors and envision a bright future. Once they are back in school and balancing sports, classes, and test prep, their vision board can motivate them to keep working toward their long term goals. 

4. Exercise 

Kids are so used to moving around throughout the day that they can become restless if they are cooped up inside all day. Make sure they get moving to boost their energy and release endorphins. Include a time in their daily schedule to get outside and get moving. If the weather doesn’t permit them to do so, use resources like YouTube or Fortë to find fun indoor workouts. 

5. Begin building passion project 

Command Education helps students develop passion projects, which ultimately help them stand out to colleges. This process takes several months of brainstorming, website creation, growth strategizing, event-planning, and troubleshooting. When students aren’t in school, they have extra time to get more work done on things that would take several weeks if they were doing it while trying to balance that with school. If your child doesn’t have a passion project in the works already, help them brainstorm about causes they care about and creative solutions for them. If they already have something in mind, this is a good time to create a website for their project and begin reaching out to mentors or friends with whom they want to collaborate. 

6. Teach your kids life skills

Just because they aren’t in school doesn’t mean your child should stop learning, so teach them what you know! It’s no secret that the American school system falls short when it comes to teaching students about life skills. View this time as an opportunity to fill in some of the gaps that their education made. Topics like money management, which is especially relevant in the midst of this financial climate, and cooking, which can be a creative outlet, are great subjects to start with!

7. Organize and redecorate their room

This is an especially crucial step if your child is nearing a transitional phase (like entering high school or college). They should go through their closet and donate old clothes or even repaint their bedroom walls. As a teenager, their personality changes practically with the seasons. Their personal space should reflect their evolving personality. Plus, making these changes now will give your child a fun (and time-consuming) project for the days ahead.

8. Take online classes 

This is a great time to learn something new that your child might not have time to learn during the school year. They can take computer science classes, begin learning a new language, or take knowledge they learned at school to the next level. Here are a few great resources that Command Education mentors recommend to their students:

9. Stay in touch with friends

Being at home with family 24/7 can cause tensions to run high and make siblings more prone to fighting. Make sure your children stay in contact with their friends while they’re at home so they don’t become stir crazy. They can do this by playing interactive games like Words with Friends, which has the social aspect of video games, but is more mentally stimulating. In our high tech world, it might also be fun to write a letter to their friends as something that feels classic and more personal. Also, remember that schools are shutting down because they are crowded places with people of mixed age groups coming together. As long as your child and their friends are certain of their health, and they won’t be in contact with immunocompromised individuals, your children should feel free to invite friends over. This will help maintain normalcy and social wellbeing. 

10. Get ahead on long term goals

You should encourage your child to think ahead about their long term goals, whether that’s college, art school, living abroad, or any number of other things. Encourage and assist them in taking actions to achieve these goals. For instance, if they plan on applying to college, they should begin preparing for the SAT or ACT. They can start working with a remote tutor who will hold them accountable and provide them with practice tests. If your student hopes to apply to music, dance, or art, programs, they can take this time to and build portfolios for applications.

With all these things in mind, try not to get overwhelmed. Take it one day at a time. Try to approach each day as if it is both the first and last day of the school closures. This mindset can help both you and your children avoid anxiety and restlessness.

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