Hello, everyone! Welcome back to HeadStart For Life’s blog, Beyond Therapy!
Last week, the government of Singapore announced the implementation of an enhanced measure to curb the spread of Covid-19, called the Circuit Breaker. This means that most workplaces must be closed and full home-based learning for schools will be imposed, which also mean, most of you are probably reading this while working from home – with your children probably screaming in the background.
While this is an imperative measure taken to protect the wellbeing of everyone in Singapore, the disruption in routines can be incredibly challenging, for both you and your child. A sudden and long-term change in your child’s daily schedule might result in a loss of skills which he/she may have gained during intervention or even lead to increased anxiety and behavioural problems. As for caregivers, on top of having to manage work at home, you are now also shouldering the extra responsibilities of conducting home-based learning and taking care of your child’s daily needs.
So, here are some tips for you on how to come out of this alive:
F O R Y O U R C H I L D
First things first, just like how we – adults – have the tendency to “Marie Kondo” our workspaces before actually beginning a task at that space, it is important for you to set up a physical structure where you will be working with your child. Having a structured physical environment helps your child to understand where an activity will take place.
Make sure to create clear physical and/or visual boundaries to help your child identify where each area begins and ends. For instance, separating the work and play area, if possible. If not, you may foster the habit of putting toys away to indicate that play time has ended.
Minimize auditory and visual distractions as best as you can. For example, switching off the television or music player and keeping toys away and out of your child’s reach during work time.
It will be helpful if you can schedule a regular daily home routine for your child amidst this period of change and uncertainty. This will give them an idea of activities or events to expect at specific times of the day, which may help reduce their level of anxiety.
If possible, build in pockets of time for physical or movement activity for your child to wiggle about. Physical activities will help provide your child with sensory inputs and satisfy their sensory needs. Some ideas on indoor movement activities can be found here (1, 2, 3) and some sensory activities can be found here.
If the situation permits, you may also want to include short periods of leisure activities outdoors, such as a stroll nearby, while practising strict social distancing measures.
Alternatively, you can also include your child in household chores. Not only will this keep them occupied, it will also promote progress in daily living skills. You can demonstrate and teach them skills such as dressing, cleaning up and etc (1, 2). Do remember to offer generous amount of praise and reinforcement for their attempts.
In order to familiarise and practise following regular routines with your child, you may want to pair the routine with a visual schedule. For a better idea of what a visual schedule is, you may take a look at these websites: (1) and (2). They provide free printables too!
F O R Y O U R S E L F
Be kind to yourself…
Self-Care. As important as it is to settle your child, you should also pay attention to your own wellbeing. Schedule time each day to do something that reenergises you.
Be realistic. Adopting a new schedule is a change itself. Take it slow, start small with loose structure and always remember that it is okay to take breaks.
Stay virtually connected. Maintain social ties with close ones by planning regular calls with friends and members of the family.
Work as a team. Communicate expectations with your spouse and discuss on how you can distribute the responsibilities effectively between each other.
These tips are not only limited to the Circuit Breaker period. You may also incorporate them into your usual daily routine and continue practising them when it falls back into its usual pattern.
Although it may seem really challenging at this point to be juggling between the roles of a parent and an employee, keep in mind that your efforts can make a difference in keeping millions of people safe and our organisations in business. Most importantly is, you are not alone. We are all in this together and Headstart For Life is here for you. Feel free to reach out to your child’s respective teachers and therapists should you need any help.
In the meanwhile, stay safe and take care.
Hume, K. & IRAC (2018). Structured Teaching Strategies for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.readingrockets.org/article/structured-teaching-strategies-students-autism-spectrum-disorder
Unicef (2020). Tips for parenting during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19-parenting-tips