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Lissarette's Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Returning to school in the times of COVID-19 (anxiety and how to help our children)

September 2020

Fall finally arrived and brings with it the anxiously expected 2020-2021 school year. Depending on the age of your child, the levels of your anxiety may vary. If you are a new parent, the anxiety of sending your precious child to school is probably already high enough without the added stress of the ongoing pandemic. School choices always posed a challenge for parents due to many factors. Some of those factors are as simple as not wanting (or not being ready) for your child to move out of your reach and onto the next level of their learning ladder. There are factors such as the socio-economic status of some families that are more complex to handle since many aspects may fall out of your control.


As seamless as it may appear to sit in front of our screens and judge the decisions of other families during these difficult times, we may not fully grasp the situation that those families are in unless we find ourselves in similar conditions. As it is usually the case, many of us are doing what we deem best while others simply don’t have as many choices available for them to pick from. As odd as it may sound, one thing that brings us all together is our common enemy : Anxiety


Anxiety in children is real and it starts as early as the toddler years. As adults, we experience anxiety similarly, however we are equipped with tools to regulate our emotions. These tools enable us to find coping mechanisms that our children did not currently develop. Anxious children will not show us biting nails, tears or fear as many would expect. Instead we might encounter a defiant toddler, an irritable infant, a child that might start having trouble sleeping (after perhaps sleeping very well before) and finally anger. Anger is often the “go-to” emotion when we don’t know how to handle what we REALLY feel.


Children growing up in a stressful environment or without consistency in their lives tend to have difficulty learning according to research. Right now the growing anxiety of parents is the worry that their child might fall behind. With that in mind, what parents truly should be focusing on is providing their children an optimal learning environment for their needs in which they feel safe and secured by the adults around them. In other words : If you show yourself anxious and uncertain, your child will not only feel the same but experience despair and hopelessness since the people they look up to seem lost and unsure. These series of emotions impair their ability to focus and as a result might tamper with their learning journey.


Try your best to be the person you know your child needs right now. It sounds easy but it takes a lot of work to remain calm in situations of high stress such as a global pandemic. Our brains over produce certain substances (adrenaline) that when taken too many times might dysregulate our stress responses and as result impact the way that we react. Our ability to fight or flight when used correctly keeps us safe and even alive. When overused, we saturate that part of our brain and in return remain in a constant state of alertness. It's as unhealthy as it sounds. This is true for adults and for children but is extremely critical for a developing brain (from ages 0 to 3).

What does this ultimately mean in terms of schooling ? you might ask. Should I send my child back to school or keep them home?

That’s a great question. The truth is that it ultimately will depend on your family’s needs. Every family is unique and thrives in different environments with varied resources available to them . Our school districts are different, our communities are different. Consider YOUR own situation and then make the best decision for YOUR family. Don’t let peer pressure from your neighbors or your friends push you into a decision that you are not comfortable with. When getting contradicting information from pediatricians, health officials and public institutions we need to stick to what we all agree in and what we truly know at the moment.

In an article published recently by the New York Times these were the main points made when considering sending your child back to school.

  • Fewer children than adults become infected. But childhood infection is not uncommon.
  • Children do become sick with the virus, but deaths are very rare.
  • Children can spread the virus to others. How often is still unknown.


Whatever decision you make, I recommend that you fully embrace it so your child can build off your confidence and lessen their anxiety.

If you decide to keep your child home which can be an ideal option for some families, make sure you are prepared with facing challenges of working from home while helping your child with their learning experience. Depending on their age, those challenges might be different but I’m sure with preparation and the right resources you’ll rise to the occasion.

For example, if your child is doing virtual learning, make sure they have a quiet and personal space to sit for their virtual classroom meetings. If you need more tips on this particular case and home schooling please visit this blog post.


Some of you may have heard about the new learning pods trend. Learning pods are a well intended idea that if done right can be a wonderful option for those in closed communities with limited options. Children generally thrive better when learning in a social environment. I would only recommend joining a learning pod as long as it remains within your local state and DOH guidelines, in other words : Legal.

Adults watching children that are not their own are only allowed to do so (in the state of New York) for three hours a day or less (when watching more than three children including their own) and cannot have more than three children in their home or space including their own! (This if the care will be more than 3 hours)

I own a Daycare and a Preschool and I’m versatile in article 416 that regulates Daycares and article 47 that regulates preschools and other commercial learning settings for children. Supervising children for learning purposes in your home comes with great responsibility and as a result is being regulated by the state. Please do your research prior to joining one of these pods. Such regulations are in place in order to ensure the safety of the students and to guarantee a basic level of competence for their caregivers. This is accomplished through rigorous background checks, health screenings and training sessions. Unfortunately many of such learning pods don't follow any of these regulations which may potentially compromise the safety of their students and will face dire consequences from the state authorities as the result.


In terms of entertaining, I’m generally opposed to screen time usage, as is the American Academy of pediatricians for children 18 months old and under. This would apply to TV screens, phones, tablets, and so on.

Although I completely understand the need to pop the tablet once in a while for your child, especially if you have more than one and need to work from home! As tempting as it may be, there are other alternatives to virtual learning for infants and toddlers. I highly recommend investing in a mommy’s helper, nanny or even a trained early childhood professional that can come to your home for sessions with your child. If the exposure to COVID-19 is one of your concerns and you truly don’t want to take your child to a Daycare or nursery then your best bet is to adapt your personal schedule to educate and nurture your child yourself. To learn more about how to work from home with a baby or a toddler then visit this blog.


In conclusion, I understand that these are challenging times for all of us, but we have to adapt in order to continue thriving. Our children will catch up with whatever academics they might “fall behind” this year as teachers and other education professionals are trained to help children “catch up” when they enter a classroom under different circumstances than their peers. In other words, don’t worry about putting too much pressure on your child academically. They can always learn new concepts as long as their brains are ready for learning. Teachers and Educators are trained to help your child achieve this, but unfortunately when our brains go through trauma, stress, constant state of alertness and uncertainty, then our ability to learn is negatively impacted. Just think of it this way. It is more challenging to teach a child who can’t focus because they don’t feel safe than one who might not understand a concept yet but is happy and eager to learn. Instead, I highly recommend to make sure your child's brain is going through as many positive and nurturing experiences as possible. Make sure to enjoy the extra family time, the opportunity to create meaningful connections with your little ones, especially if you were unable to see them in the past until it was dinner or even bedtime. Enjoy these special moments. In the end, isn't that what life is about? Sometimes its also just a matter of your own perspective. You can be “trapped in your apartment” or you can be “safely in your home”. Our words and how we explain, model and express situations to our children can literally change the way they see the world forever.


Good luck and know that you are not alone.


Lissarette Nisnevich.



Cited works : 
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/01/health/coronavirus-parents-schools.html

https://ocfs.ny.gov/programs/childcare/regulations/416-GFDC.pdf

https://www.childcare.gov/consumer-education/child-care-licensing-and-regulations

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx


Lissarette's Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

The importance of Early Childhood Education.

March 23, 2020

Early childhood as defined by The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) is the period from birth to eight years old, is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.

At birth, children already begin learning, and as time goes, they begin to develop and learn in their early years rapidly. This early learning process lays a critical foundation upon which a lifelong growth into adulthood is built. A great responsibility lies on the adults into which this sensitive period of childhood development is entrusted.

The consequence of early childhood education (ECE) is essential and cannot be over emphasized. Early childhood is a critical time because this is the period of developing socio-emotional, interpersonal, cognitive language skills which are essential while attaining adulthood.


Advantage of Early Childhood Education


Early childhood education is a necessity to mitigate the factors that predispose children to poor achievements. This ECE provides support for not only children but also parents as it enhances the care giving environment by the inclusion of the children in activities and decision making.

In today’s world, new challenges consistently arise. Challenges that question equity, sustainability, durability, quality and integration. If children are not equipped with the right kind of knowledge and skills to face these new challenges, then the future of the next generation will be brought into question.

A profound benefit of early childhood education is that children are taught about life and made to make little decisions with not too far-reaching consequences. This instills responsibility at an early age. This is also a delicate period that may be considered a “window of opportunity” in which the mind Is more open to certain stimuli to learn.

ECE creates the opportunity for coexistence, breakdown of stereotyping, as well as the formation of autonomous and critical individuals, producing individuals that can have a perception of universal values of their own.

To the parent or caretaker, it provides an avenue for parents to combine roles at work and home – a component key to enjoying balanced family life.

When a safe environment is created for ECE, children get to relate with one another, and this gives each child a series of parallel learning such as communication, respect, sharing and waiting. These attributes contribute to their individual development and open the first door to how life works.


Disadvantages of delayed Childhood Education


Delay in childhood education has invariable consequences, such as a child's ability to learn. There tends to be a lag in emotional and social skills like the ability to communicate or interact with other children and adults as well.

Delayed child education may also have a negative economic effect on caregivers and parents by demanding added childcare cost for families where children are made to stay out of school.

Given such offsetting effects, “why does a delay in childhood education?” becomes an empirical

question.


What research has to say about Early Childhood Education


A 2017 study conducted at the Harvard Graduate School of Education analyzed 22 high-quality studies, which were conducted between 1960 and 2016. This meta-analysis showed that children who attended high-quality ECE programs were less likely to repeat a class, less likely to have to go on to special education classes, and more likely to finish high school when compared to those who didn’t attend any such programs.

Studies further show that children with early childhood education tend to be more curious and show interest in discovering new things. They are reported to be more curious and confident, which leads to better performance in grade school.


Economic returns from Early Childhood Education


It is noteworthy that the success associated with ECE may sometimes tend to be costly. What this suggests is that substantial money must be spent to achieve more enormous benefits. So, it becomes arguable, is it worth the money? Is devoting high cost of resources to ECE programs worth the investment?

Well, as a famous quote goes, "If you think the cost of education is high, think about ignorance."

One of the many economic benefits of the advantages outlined above includes reduced cost of expenditure and resources on special education classes and grade repetition. Also, with improved school performance, there would be higher educational attainment. This will inadvertently lead to subsequent economic success in adulthood. A consequence of this will be less money spent on the criminal justice system, social welfare programs, and possibly higher tax revenues as a result of a more buoyant economy.

Economic benefits must not only be measured by the monetary values, but also the innovation and creativity of the ECE. ECE creates an improved labour market that is driven by competitiveness and innovation as a consequence of an improvement in educational acquisition of the future workforce. And what a better way it is for the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals which is to end poverty by 2030.

For decision-makers, and this includes the government, parents, and caretakers, the onus lies on the choice of do you wish to participate the late education of children, or do you wish to participate in the early education of the child. While one breed ignorance, stereotyping and limitation of possibilities, the other opens early enough, a door of opportunities.

Early Childhood Education should not be underestimated. It is the bedrock upon which tomorrow lays.


By,

Lissarette Nisnevich.




Cited Works

Feldman, M. (2018, September 28). New Harvard Study Reveals Lasting Benefits of Quality Early

Childhood Education. Retrieved from https://www.ffyf.org/new-harvard-study-reveals-lasting-benefits-quality-early-childhood-education/