The world changed overnight. Yesterday, kids went to school, people went to work and there was toilet paper on the shelves. Just like that, the rug was pulled out from all of us. Our new reality needed to be learned in a 60-second speed course while our children watched.

Right now, many of you are balancing working from home and being a full-time parent. If you have a school-age child, they are figuring out remote learning with a packet or electronic link.

Plus you have your preschool child, and they didn’t come home with a packet. They aren’t sure what is going on, why they can’t see their friends and why mommies and daddies are home.

Self-imposed time out

Breathe. That is the first step to any successful problem solving. You need to give yourself a self-imposed time out and look at this situation as an opportunity. This is a much-needed time for all of us to be present with our children and let them play. They are only children once and need to have time to explore and discover.

Consistency and routine

Take a step back and then focus on the details. Put together a schedule for your children (and yourself) so that each knows what is happening. For your older children, they can write it out. For your preschoolers, use pictures.

Think how you feel when you don’t know what is going to happen next. Not knowing what comes next can be very stressful for adults, and we have control over most situations. Imagine you are a child and not only do you not know what

will happen next, you can’t control any of it. That can be very unnerving and scary.

What your child truly needs

Your child needs to be a child. They need to play with fantasy toys to act

out their fears and start to make sense of the world. This is what they are doing when they pretend to be their mommy or daddy or a superhero. They need to build blocks to work on problem solving, what if’s, balance, scientific principles and the joy of knocking it all down.

They need to tear paper to strengthen their fine motor muscles. They need to draw what they want, make the bear purple with green polka dots or the house upside down to flex their creative muscles. They are learning independence, self-reliance and resilience.

How these skills will translate into the real world

Kindergarten teachers are not expecting your children to know everything when they come through the doors. Can your child sit still for five minutes, use the bathroom independently, use his/her words to get what they need? Those emotional strengths they are gaining from play are the foundations they need to take on the rigors of academic life.

How you will succeed in this

Give yourself a break. Screen time is not the worst thing in the world. Take time for yourself so you can give them the best you. They will remember that you were there for them and that is what matters most. JN

Pam Morris is the director of the Early Childhood Learning Center at the East Valley JCC.

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