In this blog post, Rebecca Zosel reflects on her family’s time at home during the pandemic and discusses the impact of COVID-19 on her children’s wellbeing, physical activity and screen time.
The past few months have been unique, to say the least. On the one hand, we’re #AllInItTogether, but on the other hand, we’ve had to deal with the pandemic separately because of physical distancing and other restrictions – when normally as social beings, we’d gather in groups and support each other during trying times like these.
Since COVID-19 restrictions have started lifting, I’ve been reflecting on my family’s life at home during the pandemic. Thankfully for us, the experience has been largely positive, although of course there have been some challenges.
Every family will have their own story to tell. But today I’d like to give you a window into our journey.
Focusing on wellbeing
The coronavirus turned our family’s day-to-day realities upside down – all of a sudden, the kids were learning at home, weekend sports were cancelled, and the visiting of friends, grandparents or anyone really, was no longer allowed. One day everything was safe and predictable, at times even mundane. And then COVID-19 arrived and life suddenly felt risky and dangerous in a way that most of us had never experienced or even contemplated. Ensuring that my children feel safe and secure and good within themselves is always a priority, and even more so during this period of significant change and upheaval.
Children take most of their cues from adults, so my husband and I focused on modelling a positive outlook as we navigated our new reality. We explained to the kids that this was our ‘new normal’ for now, and that everyone – their teachers, the government, scientists – were working hard and doing all the right things to protect us and keep everyone healthy. We spent lots of time talking about the pandemic and answering the children’s questions. Together, we watched our political leaders deliver their regular updates, and we tuned into age-appropriate news such Squiz Kids and BTN. My children are much better versed in politics and public health, thanks to coronavirus.
Since we’ve been home, we’ve adopted new pets, read lots of books, cooked meals together, and became video-call pros as we connected with family and friends. The children have missed their friends but luckily for my three, they’ve got each other. Rather than dwelling on the negatives, I’ve kept the children focused on the good things about being at home: no rushing around, more free time, and hot lunches every day. When it comes to schoolwork, they love playing music as they study and taking breaks “whenever they want”. Wellbeing has a strong link to learning, and feeling good has helped my children to thrive during remote learning.
Image: My COVID-19 window, by Liliana (8)
New family traditions have emerged –weekly gaming competitions organised by Oscar, weekly craft sessions led by Liliana, and of course we stayed up late (even on school nights!) to watch LEGO Masters. Allowing the children to decide how to spend some of the extra family time has created a delightful atmosphere of fun and ‘us-ness’ that I recall from their pre-school days, before our lives got so busy. The COVID-19 restrictions has helped my family to slow down – to peel away the non-essentials in our life and make some subtle shifts in the way we live to improve our wellbeing. If hurrying is indeed the enemy of love, then we choose love.
Being active, locally
The lockdown has gifted my children with more time for unstructured play. My 10-year old son Oscar has spent countless hours riding his bike around the neighbourhood – he’s learnt how to bunny hop and do wheelies, and has gradually transformed our front yard into a bike skills park. Our backyard has also received more attention than normal, with all three kids working hard over days to dig an enormous hole. They are very happy with their hole.
Image: Liliana (8), Edith (3) and Oscar (10) in their home-dug hole
Like many of our neighbours, we are exercising more by walking, cycling and generally being out in the fresh air and in the garden. The kids are much more active than usual, despite the lack of sports and other structured activities, and we all feel more connected to our neighbourhood and local community.
Accepting the extra screen time
I’ve written previously about Managing screen time with primary school aged children, but the rule book was thrown out of the window during the pandemic. We managed to keep the TV off on weekdays (just!) but my children’s screen time increased significantly, as distance learning requires them to work on a screen for hours every day.
In the early days of restrictions I planned to do virtual museum tours, visit zoos from around the world, learn Auslan and code with the kids…this was promptly discarded once I realised how much screen time was involved with remote learning. Extra screen time is inevitable, but instead of adding to it with virtual activities, I get the kids up and moving – and outside – at every opportunity.
Transitioning out of lockdown
As restrictions ease, there is lots of uncertainty about what happens next, and what our ‘new normal’ will be. My children return to face-to-face learning on the 9th of June. By then, they will have completed eight weeks of Term 2 at home. Before they return to school, I’ve tasked them with making a COVID-19 time capsule to document this unique moment in time, including everything that was good about being at home. Hopefully we can retain the slower pace and some of our new family rituals. To celebrate their accomplishments and resilience I’m going to present each of them with a certificate of achievement on their last day of remote learning. I think all parents, and teachers, deserve a certificate too!