A Guide For Caring for Children During Extended Family Confinement
Please note, Anji Play does not support any given government response to COVID-19 but would like to acknowledge the reality that many children and families have been and will end up being confined for a length of time in their homes. This guide also includes good common sense advice for parenting in general and running a school or classroom.
The following document has been developed by Jesse Coffino and Krystina Tapia in consultation with Cheng Xueqin, Director Anji Childhood Education Research Center, Superintendent of Early Education (retired), Anji County Department of Education, Zhejiang Province, China.
The document is an evolving one and is shared publicly, under the review and revision by a group of educators, psychologists, physicians, and parents.
A note to schools:
Your program may be required to suspend regular operations for an indeterminate period of time in response to guidance or orders related to the prevention of the transmission of one or more communicable diseases.
During this time, your communities, including students, staff, administrators, and families may be required to be confined to single-family units in and around their homes.
Because of your relationship with the children and families that make up your community, you can play a leading role in supporting their physical and mental health during this time.
A note to families and teachers:
During periods of close confinement, the most important factors in maintaining mental and physical health are maintaining a proper diet, access to medication, access to natural environments, fresh air, and sunlight, exercise, consistent routines, and contact with other people. Creating ways to stay engaged with and aware of your environment, maintaining an experience of freedom and efficacy, going outside as much as possible, and staying internally aware of the passage of time can be the difference between hope and despair.
Establishing consistent and responsive (flexible) routines that allow your child the greatest degree of mastery, and awareness of their responsibility to the reasonable needs of the family (group), also forms the crucial building block of healthy learning environments for young children.
When spending extended periods of time with a numerically limited group of people in a bounded, indoor space, patience, listening, and reflection are critical conditions for creating and maintaining a safe and healthy environment.
Being aware of your child's needs, interests and abilities will help you create reasonable expectations, involve everyone in productive tasks that serve the needs of the group, and may make you more aware of what your child is capable of achieving.
During this time follow and engage with your interests and your child’s interests: research and explore topics of interest, make things, make and listen to music, dance, write songs and stories, take things apart and put things back together, talk and listen, explore, organize, document and change your environment, try new recipes, bake, organize photos, etc. Do your best to maintain intrinsic motivation, intentionality and planning in your activities. Allow for extensive, uninterrupted, self-directed play and exploration.
Many tools may be at your disposal during this time that will allow you to deepen your understanding of your children, support their joyful learning, growth, and development and your growth as a family, and deepen connections both within your family and with your child's larger school community.
During this time avoid oversleeping, reliance on habit-forming activities, and the use of rewards or punishments to motivate behavior. Any "rewards" (like television or dessert) should be enjoyed by all at the end of the day to cap off the day’s routines. To help maintain a generally positive outlook in the face of uncertainty, avoid fixed thinking, for example “things won’t change,” “he will never be able to do that,” “she will never stop doing that,” etc.
Engage with your family and environment by disengaging from rewards-based activities and technologies: limit the use of portable electronic devices to frequently check social media or email communications. Make regular times to check public services, health, and emergency related information, and share what’s happening at home with friends and family.
Make your larger goals
1.) increasing your child's ability to be deeply engaged in their own activities without the need of your participation or intervention.
2.) increasing your child's ability to complete necessary, daily tasks with minimal prompting or oversight. This type of engagement and inquiry is the deepest form of learning.
During this time, do not worry about your child learning specific academic subjects or obtaining specific learning outcomes.
Many adults are solely responsible for children and/or other adults in their care. Many adults will be required to work or otherwise respond to needs external to their family unit during this time. For this reason, we encourage all parents to consult this document, adapt as necessary and practical, and maintain contact with other adults for listening and support.
Taking care of yourself so you can take care of others:
Spending time with children over extended periods of time requires patience, energy, calm, and the ability to listen and respond in a clear and effective manner.
During this time, do your best to stay on the same page with other adults in your family regarding plans, boundaries, and decision-making. Make decisions together, in advance, agree on those decisions and follow-through. When possible, do not discuss these decisions in front of children if there is likely to be disagreement.
Make yourself aware of the appropriate expectations of your child based on their age.
Minimize frustration by understanding what to reasonably expect from your child.
Create bounded time and space to pursue your own tasks, projects, or simply take a deep breath. Make sure to communicate with other responsible adults in the household when you need a break or time to yourself.
Please consult the full document for more information & resources on:
- Healthy meals and meal routines
- Purposeful plans and maintaining connections
- Roles, responsibilities, and expectations
- Observe, and record play, provide materials in response to observations
- Schedules, noting change, maintaining the environment, and an awareness of time
- Sample schedule
- Tools and materials
- Further reading and resources, notes
Our best wishes and huge gratitude to Anji play for creating this resource for our schools, teachers and parents.
Credits: Jesse Coffino and Krystina Tapia in consultation with Cheng Xueqin, Director Anji Childhood Education Research Center, Superintendent of Early Education (retired), Anji County Department of Education, Zhejiang Province, China.