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Mendo Lake Family Life

To Parents Who Have Suddenly Become Teachers

By Michelle Hutchins

It is a tough time for parents, students, and teachers. All of us have been thrust into an unfamiliar experience—helping students keep up with academics via remote learning, managing other work and family responsibilities, and trying not to overreact to the anxiety-provoking news about this public health crisis.

Many teachers are balancing the need to care for their own children with providing educational materials to their classes. Telecommuting parents are juggling their children’s needs with their family’s economic realities. And students are trying to adjust to a new landscape full of uncertainty.

Here are some tips for managing the educational and emotional challenges of home study during times like these.

Keep Routines in Place Experts agree that one of the best ways to reduce children’s stress is to reduce uncertainty by maintaining familiar routines. Create consistent wake-up and bedtime routines. Eat breakfast together at the same time each morning. Have children brush teeth, get dressed, and be ready to work at the same time each day.

Create a Daily Plan Share the day’s plan in the morning so children know what to expect. Based on your children’s academic requirements, create a schedule that incorporates both work and relaxation time. Consider the following: academics, non-screen creative time, exercise, snacks/meals, outdoor time, chores, free time, and more. Intersperse sitting activities with moving activities. In addition to using the materials teachers provide, you can also visit the California Department of Education’s page “Free Educational Resources for Distance Learning” at for all sorts of great resources.

Excerise! One of the best ways to reduce stress is to move. Get kids up and active. Walk around the block or race them to a visible landmark and back home. Do an indoor scavenger hunt if the weather is poor. It’s hard to overstate the importance of exercise during a time like this.

Do New and Tried-and-True Activities Being at home together affords you the opportunity to try new things and go back to old favorites. Bake cookies together. Pull out the board games. Play cards. Find the Legos. Sometimes it can be fun to revisit old activities. For a list of fun ideas, visit, click on the red banner that says “School Closure & Coronavirus Information” at the top of the page, then, once on the “Coronavirus Information for Schools and Families” page, scroll to the bottom, look under “Resources for Schools, Families, and the Community,” and click on “Chatter Pack: A list of free, online boredom-busting resources.”

Connect Virtually with Friends and Family If you have access to a phone or the Internet, connect with friends and extended family. Schedule a time for children to talk to their grandparents or an elderly neighbor about the best thing that happened to them that day or what they’re looking forward to tomorrow.

Manage Your Own Anxiety How we manage our own anxiety has a big impact on our children. Children take their cues from us, and they are perceptive enough to notice body language and other non-verbal communication. Depending on the age of your children, keep your adult concerns private and limit your children’s access to newscasts and social media. If you’re upset, take slow, deep breaths. It’s best to tell your children the truth but not to overshare.

Accentuate the Positive During tough times, the human capacity for kindness and compassion is often on display in extraordinary ways. Find examples of unselfish acts, and share them with your children. Remind them that even in dark times there are shining examples of goodness to be found.

Be Patient and Kind This is a tough time for children and parents alike. Try to be patient with yourself, your children, your partner, your colleagues, and your children’s teachers. Most folks are doing the best they can. If you feel yourself getting annoyed, focus on something you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude and helping your children practice gratitude is a great way to reduce stress and increase joy in your life. 

Michelle Hutchins is the Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools.