It has been another difficult week for education in South Africa. There are difficulties that humanity is facing right now that the mind cannot even comprehend, yet education and safety is a topic that is so close to the heart of parents, teachers and children alike.
Whatever route the pandemic may take (whatever the graphs may show) – we know that a priority is to keep our families safe at all times. Parents have really been placed in a difficult situation of making decisions of whether to send children back to the classroom and also helping them learn from home where possible. Now, once again, parents are re-adjusting to keeping children at home – with great uncertainty as to what the rest of the academic year looks like.
Enough said about parents! What about our children? Surely they have also been quite in limbo during this time – with the added pressures of being home and trying to work in an environment that is usually a comfortable space that has now automatically been transformed into one of study, play and sleep.
It has been a trying time for our children also and their resilience can naturally begin to wane after over a hundred days of lockdown.
Burn-out in children is real! We often do not reflect on this topic – because the focus is usually on how children adapt so easily to pick themselves up and move on. Yet, at the same time, over a prolonged period of difficulties, children do have the human tendency of burn-out.
What is burn-out?
As defined by study, burn-out is an exhaustion syndrome, characterized by feeling overwhelmed; physical and emotional exhaustion. Burn-out specifically in children happens when children are faced with ongoing stress – without time for relaxation.
You may well question that children have been at home since March and they are possibly relaxed.
Have you noticed though that children are also going through the motions of feeling isolated, feeling uncertain of their future (especially the older children) and also missing their usual routine. Perhaps being confined to the home has offered more physical relaxation but overall children have also taken strain emotionally.
How can you help your child?
- Offer them undivided attention
Just a few minutes of undivided attention, talking and connecting with your child will help them feel loved and cared for. During your work-from-home schedule, you may feel that you are physically at home and therefore closer to your children. Yet, during this time we have been working harder than ever before and although children are physically present – we may not be offering them our full attention and love. By spending just 15 minutes of quality time with your child, you will find that they will be more relaxed and share their fears and anxieties with you in a more open manner.
- Allow time to relax together
A simple way to do this is to schedule their breaks with yours. This will allow you flexibility at home, without feeling that you are being distracted from your work commitments in order to parent. While you are busy on a meeting, allow your child to complete a curriculum related activity and then have a common break. In that way, you will continue to be productive and at the same time connect with your child in a meaningful manner. Preparing lunch or dinner together is also a wonderful way to connect.
- Do not discredit your child’s emotions
Allow your child to experience the different emotions that is attached to the pandemic. Feel those feelings with your child by allowing her to share it with you. Listen attentively – allow her to talk to you and be supportive of the different emotions your child feels. Reassuring your child that this will pass – offering her love and kindness (a gentle hug and comforting words) will bring about emotional balance that is so needed right now.