By Meghna Yadav
“Schools are closed for 91% students across 188 countries. Around 1.6 billion children are not able to attend school in person. More than 1 billion children are at risk of falling behind due to school closures. Many face the risk of never returning to school, undoing years of progress made in education around the world!” – Unicef in September 2020
The numbers are unbelievable, but real. The numbers are never heard before, but the impact will be seen for years. This data is based on counting; the implications are beyond calculations.
Such unprecedented times need unprecedented measures. As significant adults for children, it is our humble duty to choose the right path of learning for them. A child’s brain is known to be hungry of stimulation and the age appropriate exposure therefore, is the fundamental right of every child. Any pandemic of any kind should not result in complete halt to a child’s learning. The learning curve has to continue. Here are 7Cs that can bring this continuity to a child’s crucial year of growth and learning:
First and foremost, let us be very clear that we are not living in an ideal world. Ideally, children interacting with each other in group settings, close to nature with hands-on learning, sensorial explorations through touch or feel are some great ways to learn and educate. This pandemic has taken away these luxuries from us and therefore, we need to find a midway which might not be ideal but is supporting the learning curve of children. Learning need not stop, even when schools are closed. And for that, even if we have to change preconceived notions of learning, we better be ready for the same. Adopt the new measures of learning and teaching for your child and do not hesitate in opting for mid-way in the current scenario.
While adopting new measures of learning, accept the omnipresence of the screen in today’s world. The most important aspect is to use the screen wisely; not everything is necessarily bad about it. While many adults perceive screen exposure as a monster capable of chewing up the most meaningful hours of children, online interactive sessions if configured wisely in a routine can be a great source of learning for children. American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) guidelines suggest that from age two through six, children can view screens to watch high-quality educational content. If available, opt for a well configured online educational content to maintain continuity in your child’s learning.
More than ever, the need of the hour is the collaboration among significant adults around children. Parents, schools and educators need to unite in providing the right kind of learning to young children. All these agencies have a common goal, the child and therefore, working in unison is of high significance now. Parents need to trust school policies and practices under the pandemic. Similarly, educators need to value the trust parents put in when it comes to learning of their children. Stay connected with educators of your child and do not hesitate in sharing important observations regarding your child’s learning with them.
Routine is essential when it comes to learning. The consistent pattern of day to day functioning provides predictability to the child’s brain which ultimately yields to a sense of security in a child. A secure and safe environment is best when a child is on a learning curve. Parents need to create a routine which will instantly signal a child’s brain that a particular time is approaching for a particular activity. Whether it is an online class or reading out favourite bedtime stories, consistency is the key.
Talk as much as possible to your children. The casual conversations in family not only support the learning curve of children but also enhance the bonding among members. Such conversations need not be academic in nature only. Acknowledging children’s feelings and emotions, answering questions of children or asking questions to children are some great ways to contribute significantly in children’s growth and development.
Children learn best with peers and friends. Socialisation is not only the key for happiness of children but it also opens the horizon for creativity and inquisitiveness among children. If your children are feeling disconnected while maintaining social distancing, you can keep them socially connected by wise use of technology. Video calls with friends and extended family members is a wonderful solution of social connectivity in the time of social distancing. Allow them to stay connected with the outer world if you want them to keep learning.
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Studies have shown that apart from academics, children need to learn basic life skills like self-control, behaviour management and emotional regulations in early years to be “successful” in later years. Self-regulation lays a foundation for a child’s long-term physical, psychological, behavioural, and educational well-being. And to continue the learning of children for their wellbeing, parents need to cater to their own emotional health. To calm a mind, you need a calm mind! To raise a healthy child, you need a healthy mind! So, the mantra for significant adults around young children: Self-care is not selfish. Rather, invest in yourself before you invest in the learning curve of your child. Take care of yourself to take care of your children.
(The author is a child psychologist who is working for training and parent partnership initiatives at KLAY preschools and day-care as a consultant. She is also working with children and families of various countries from the last two decades as a psychologist)
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