A survey conducted last month by RED C for Mental Health Ireland found almost one in four Irish households had been home-schooling under Level 5 restrictions. And 62% felt home-schooling had put a strain on the parent-child relationship.
Professor John Sharry, founder of Parents Plus and author ofsays lockdowns and school closures have been very important for public health – but they’ve also damaged children’s health and wellbeing.
“They’ve restricted children’s social interaction and education. Children have been doing less exercise. Extra pressure has been put on parents, which has stressed family relationships,” says Professor Sharry.
He agrees home-schooling has been a big stressor. “Parents have been trying to reproduce the school environment at home. Worries about their child falling behind often led to badgering them to do school work.”
With all primary schoolchildren back in classrooms since Monday, Sharry says most will be delighted, though some – who may be anxious about school anyway – may feel stressed. “These children will need loads of reassurance. Aim to be tuned in,” he urges parents.
He says the single biggest thing that’ll aid a smooth transition back is a good routine. Early bedtimes are important for everybody, parents too.He advises setting bedtime for earlier than you actually want. “If you set it for 8.30pm – rather late – it’ll drift to 9pm. Set it for 7.30 and it’ll most likely end up being 8pm.”
He recommends children get up an hour to 90 minutes before school starts. “Getting up at 8am from a deep slumber when they need to be at school at 8.30, and rushing, isn’t good. Get up in plenty of time, have a good breakfast and some time to relax.”
And with homework back on the agenda, even if not immediately, Sharry advises, should conflict arise between parents and children: “Take a break. Apologise. Heal the relationship – it can be healed quite quickly.”
He recommends preserving time every day to have a fun connection with your child. “It could be a chat, going for a walk, watching TV together, a bedtime story – what matters is how it feels.”
- Parentline and Parents Plus are teaming up to deliver a series of online parenting courses from week beginning April 12
- There are four courses aimed at parents of children under six years; between six-11 years; adolescents between 11-16 years; dedicated parenting course for parents who are separated.
- Courses will suit families dealing with normal parenting ups-and-downs and those dealing with specific challenges.
- Each course delivered via Zoom by professionally qualified facilitator over six two-hour weekly sessions to group of about 15 parents.
- Cost: €120, with facility to apply for reduction depending on income.
- Closing date for booking: Wednesday, March 24; book here.