While these are unsettling times for people around the world, parents living in Singapore have their own anxieties and concerns about the evolving pandemic situation.
At this stage, however, for parents in Singapore, the initial anxieties of the unknown are over. It is now a roller coaster of concern and relief as the statistics surge and fall. In this age of hyper-connectivity, it is very difficult to ignore information and texts, knowing that they may not be reliable sources. It is also difficult to distract oneself from the news, which is so often filled with negativity and distress. Parents have the added worry of their children listening to the news or seeing things on the internet that may cause them upset and anxiety.
The aim of all parents and caregivers is never to alarm their children whilst at the same time reinforcing concepts of social distancing and extended hygiene. By ensuring that children understand the reasoning behind the actions that are being taken they gain a better understanding of how it helps to protect them and those around them. But sometimes the vibes or subconscious messages are easy for children to spot and so adults in the family can encourage their children to communicate their fears by gently acknowledging their own, talking through concerns and giving positive assurances of the measures they follow to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Parents can provide different opportunities to reassure children, based on their age and individual interests.
For older children who enjoy and rely on reading, parents can provide scholarly, well-sourced articles that discuss the scientific developments around the virus. This provides them with logical and insightful access to information amidst the continuous inflow of social media bites. It also helps them understand how many top-quality scientists and health workers are heading the fight to beat COVID-19. Students learn the importance of evidence-based, scientific literature in a world where ‘fake news’ is omnipresent. Historical information on how pandemics have been fought may also help them in feeling reassured about the fact that situations improve as well as the added benefits of being in a technologically superior and medically advanced time. This also helps them understand that current regulations are not here to stay; that life will get better and return to something closer to normal; that by all working together to stop the spread of the virus, the scientists and researchers will be able to stay one step ahead and prevent the pandemic worsening.
For younger children, it is important that they feel heard and are confident to ask questions and voice their worries. Many younger children are finding these times difficult as they have never experienced something of this nature in their life to date. They may find it difficult to understand the basic reasoning behind why they can’t play with their friends, go to their sports clubs or see family members who live in a different house. This is why it is so important to give them support within their home environment.
It is good to acknowledge that the current foundations of social distancing, fortunately, align well with familial bonding. Play itself becomes a very desirable and easy-to-achieve calming strategy that can be woven into the daily routine for parents and their children. Play can also be used to help younger children better understand what is happening in the world while at the same time, being an outlet for them to discuss any stress or concerns they may have.
INCORPORATING AWARENESS IN CLASSROOM ROUTINES
At OWIS, where an inquiry-based approach to learning is adopted, children are naturally encouraged to lead the direction of some of their own learning, with guidance and assistance by the teacher. The last few months have given our teachers the time to highlight the importance of hygiene and healthy practices to students. They have taught children that it is vital for this to become second nature, and they reinforce the importance of good hygiene in combatting the virus.
Teachers at OWIS have been using constructive approaches to learning at this emotional time – in some cases, using Art classes to create awareness posters, using Inquiry time to generate scientific information and using Physical Education classes to build awareness about healthy lifestyle habits. This has also meant that teachers are able to monitor the mental and emotional wellbeing of their students.
These approaches are easy to achieve when properly planned and integrated into the daily class routine and equally achievable through e-learning or blended learning. When teachers model responsible citizenship, it reassures and encourages students to take ownership of their own safety, contribute to community welfare, and therefore understand the importance of diligent social distancing.
HOW MINDFULNESS CAN HELP
Schools play a crucial role in providing a safe space to help students develop the habit of mindfulness. At One World International School, teachers use the practice of traditional meditation and concentration-based movements, such as yoga and Tai chi, to strengthen children’s social and emotional intelligence. These sessions take place both within the school and now, through our online learning platforms. We teach students to take up self-guided sessions so that students can use these techniques whenever needed.
Now is a good time to incorporate these practices at home, helping children to slow down their thought processes by focusing on choreographed movements. This leads to greater engagement and more thoughtful individuals who approach situations with calm consideration.
REMOTE LEARNING AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
While teachers at OWIS have always engaged in advanced technological teaching systems in our blended learning environment, full-time e-learning or home-based learning poses new challenges to students and teachers.
The speed in which the changes had to take place is also something to consider, and further proves how diverse and adaptable our teaching and administration teams are at OWIS. Many teachers and staff members had to make rapid changes to their teaching plans and styles to ensure that their students still had the best quality education in this new world.
The team at OWIS know that beyond the initial glitches that students and teachers may face, the crucial aspect of e-learning is the “learning” itself.
As long as teachers provide interesting, thought-provoking and fun learning engagements leading to meaningful discussion, learning will take place in a virtual classroom as well as a physical one. The teachers at OWIS are energised and inspired by the day-to-day interactions with their students and will, therefore, ensure that virtual interactions will be meaningful both academically and socially.
As children, teachers and parents settle in for an extended period of remote learning, the most important thing for everyone to achieve is a stress-free environment, understanding that while learning will continue to be effective, it will also look very different. Children need emotional security and comfort for learning to take place, and they will need deeper reassurance while they wait to return to their regular in-school routine. It is important to allow children to take time out from their learning, as there will be moments where they feel overwhelmed. It is these times where spending quality time with them is important, whether this is to talk through worries, make plans or just play and have fun.
What must not be overlooked is that one of the benefits of being in school is the opportunity it provides children for socialising, playing with friends, learning collaboratively with friends and communicating their likes, dislikes, interests and needs through solid peer and teacher relationships. To compensate for this, parents can schedule time with family members or friends on video communication apps and safe, managed gaming spaces.
The upside of this situation is the unprecedented chance it gives parents to engage with their children’s learning and to spend this precious time reconnecting to enjoy some simple family pleasures like cooking or baking together, playing board games, reading, making up a new family game and watching favourite movies. By working together, this time can bring physical and emotional well-being for all. It can also further cement positive relationships within the family circle and provide memorable and cherished time together.