Millions of children are home from school right now, because at least 41 states have closed schools in efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The length of time varies from state to state, as schools shut down for anywhere from two weeks to the rest of the year. In states that have not required shutdowns, most districts have closed schools on their own.
At the same time, many parents are working from home or are home because of retail, restaurant and other business shutdowns. Hopefully this is temporary, but these are uncertain times.
Schools and teachers have been caught off guard. Some districts are framing the closures as an “extended break” and offering no schoolwork or classes, while others are supplying work for students to continue at home or through online classes.
For parents facing this situation – and for grandparents, friends, neighbors and church members who are providing help – Focus on the Family has many resources available. Everything from fun things kids can do to practical tips for working at home to helping children deal with the emotional aspects of this crisis.
Focus has just made available it’s “Adventures in Odyssey Club Membership” for a free 28-day trial period. For the uninitiated, Adventures in Odyssey is Focus on the Family’s award-winning audio drama series for kids – of all ages. The series centers around the small town of Odyssey, with characters like Mr. Whittaker (Whit), who runs an ice cream shop called Whit’s End; Connie Kendall, an outspoken college student who works there; Eugene Meltzner, a brilliant young college professor; and various characters, families and children from around Odyssey.
Each episode airs for about 25 minutes, and there are more than 900 in all. While the show is entertaining, it also includes valuable lessons for kids about courage, honesty, the Bible, history, relationships, coping with difficulties – and more. If you and your family aren’t familiar with the series – Focus is offering the Adventures in Odyssey Club Membership for families and kids “stuck at home” free of charge for four weeks.
Parents may want help dealing with some of the practical questions, such as, “How am I supposed get any work done when I’m taking care of three kids?” or “How do I give my children the time and attention they need, while meeting a work deadline?”
Focus’ Director of Parenting and Youth, Joannie DeBrito, has some suggestions. Her article, “Staying Sane While Working from Home with Kids,” gives eight ideas for parents to think through. Here’s just one of them: “Tell your kids that you’re going to take regular breaks each hour and stick to them. During break times, turn your attention to your children. Engage with them and, at the end of the break, remind them that you’ll be going back to work for just a little while and will join them again next hour.” With younger elementary age children, you might work for thirty minutes, then focus on them for 5-7 minutes, then get back to work for another half hour.
Some children may struggle emotionally during this time. They’re hearing words like “virus,” “disease” and “death.” Their whole routine has been disrupted, and they miss their friends, teachers and coaches. If mom and dad are struggling with financial anxieties, fears about the virus, or concerns about friends and family members in high risk groups, children will definitely pick up on those emotions.
DeBrito, a licensed counselor with years of experience working with students and families, has an article to help parents, “Talking with Kids About the Coronavirus.” She suggests using age-appropriate language with your kids as you discuss the coronavirus and why they’re staying home from school. Young children need simpler language, and they tend to understand concrete concepts rather than abstract ideas. Parents can have deeper conversations with older kids; DeBrito suggests engaging “preteens and teens in discussions that allow them to come up with some of their own ideas for analyzing and managing daily concerns.”
This extra time at home gives parents an opportunity to pour into their children spiritually. Focus on the Family has a webpage providing “Help for Families During the Covid-19 Crisis” with a section titled “Family Devotions,” to help build your family’s faith. You’ll find articles, devotions and activities to start discussions and bring Biblical truth to this time of fear and insecurity.
More resources for parents and families:
For parents and families with deeper concerns, Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective. To request a conversation with Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), or complete our Counseling Consultation Request Form. Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists.
Photo from Focus on the Family