In this imminent period of homeschooling, how can we as parents help our children? The UK government’s statutory guidelines on “Keeping Children Safe in Education” (September 2019) identify three broad areas of risk for online child safety: Content, Contact and Conduct. Schools and the national curriculum are already covering these areas both in their teaching of students and in the role of teachers in those issues. Indeed, often, our children know more about online safety than we do!
However, the necessity for homeschooling raises some unanticipated issues for parents, particularly around conduct during homeschool video sessions, where children are visible. It may be worth parents bearing in mind the following:
• During live video sessions, your child may not only be visible to their teacher and classmates. All systems are hackable. They should therefore be dressed for their virtual classroom as they would be for real, and preferably sited with nothing identifiable behind them.
• Consider the psychological impact of physical isolation from friends. Children generally need physical contact with their peers – a hug, a high-hand, for example – the balance between screen contact and downtime will need to be maintained.
• There is also the psychological impact of having to work entirely alone for a lot of the time – even the adults are finding that hard. No-one to banter with, or bounce ideas off, unless it is done online. If you can’t help straight away, do try and be patient with them – homeschooling is a tall order, especially for primary school age.
• Enable them to establish routines so that they ‘arrive’ at their ‘classrooms’ on time and prepared.
• Mealtimes will become more important than usual, as regular ‘markers’ of the day and as meeting points for all of the family. Good boundaries really help here, to encourage children to come out of their rooms and eat with the family. The transition moment from ‘screen life’ to real life can be hard for adults, and for children it is even more difficult.
• Where possible, agree times for indoor exercise and outings for exercise and fresh air. Children’s minds may be full of anxiety, about what may happen when people go outside, so they might be resistant to going out and need reassurance. It is good to talk about worries in an age-appropriate manner.
• There is an increased likelihood of outbursts over nothing, due to frustration and anxiety – this will be caused by underlying anger at the necessity of constraint, and you are not the cause, only the nearest safe target. Your patience and consistency will be essential.
If the going gets really tough, or if you simply need a helping hand or a sympathetic ear, Rafan House Harley Street offers clinically-governed online psychotherapeutic consultations for individuals, families and children. Call us on 07557 209158 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.