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Sunday Magazine
Each parent needs to teach their children how to keep safe at this time.

We held a ‘virtual birthday’ for my daughter

Luckily, we are on a farm, so our child can still go out despite the requirement for social distancing. Even so, we have neighbours but we are not having playgroups with other children or children coming over. They can, however, talk on the phone.

Each parent needs to teach their children how to keep safe at this time. I have interacted with one other parent and I could see that her children also know they are supposed to sanitise and stay at home.

My daughter’s birthday was on March 24. Normally we have a family birthday party for her. All her aunts would be here for the party but because of social distancing we wanted to reduce the threat of exposure, so we did more of WhatsApp. I took photographs and posted them there. The uncles made a video for her, singing for her and she replied with a video saying thank you. Also to further reduce the risk, we made the cake at home.

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We have taught her how to wash her hands. She is in early schooling and they are counting up to 100.

She understands the concept of counting so she rubs her hands together, between her fingers, rubs her wrist and while doing that she counts the nursery way: “Oooone, twooooo…” and it is so much fun for her so in fact as opposed to tell her to wash her hands we keep having to tell her to leave the sink because she wants to keep doing it while counting!

She loves educational programmes on television on Saturdays so we let her do that. Their school management also started a Whatsapp group to manage the children in the wake of Covid-19, so she has daily homework from school and does one exercise per day at a certain time.

- Achieng’ Ivisu, Co-founder of Bioafriq Energy

Consult with teachers on how things are supposed to be handled

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All of us are at home and it can be a good thing! As teachers, we had to go online. We opened link pages where students can access exams and notes. They download the work that we have uploaded, and when they are done, upload it for us to mark.

But as much as we are at home, it is business as usual and we are still progressing. For the candidates it is equally a welcome relief when they can still continue with studies and we have noticed that the students are really interested in school work.

As a parent, you can take advantage of it by appreciating that you play an active role now. It might not happen again, so now is a great time to be more involved in your children’s lives and education.

Parents are helping and asking us to check if they have uploaded the work. As a parent, you have an upper hand in your child’s education, which we have been asking for for a long time.

It is a bonding session for you and your children. You can consult with their teachers on how things are supposed to be handled, which most parents are doing. As teachers, we have a lot of back and forth with the students, just checking on whether something is being done and you can help with that. We have set deadlines, so we have constant updates on how they are doing.

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Most of these things are now online so remember to check on what your child does after they have finished the work on that online platform, to ensure that the online platform is working for educational purposes.

It is also a way of instilling in them the idea of making the right choices, teaching them to be very responsible with what they do on the internet and showing them that the internet is not a bad thing. It can be used to communicate important information and it all depends on choice.

We made a specific platform for our school to do this, but not all schools did. In this case, using the example of my son in primary school, they wrote SMSes to parents and directed that using the textbooks that the students have, work should be done by a specific time daily.

So, at the end of the day, even if you are not computer-literate, you will still manage to track your child’s academic work through those SMSes and through Whatsapp, which is really helping as well.

- Pauline Mugambi, Head of English studies and Head of Counselling at Pioneer school.

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Parenting expert: Create a routine

Come up with a routine, because without structure the whole day does not go right. It will feel haphazard because nobody knows what they are supposed to be doing and you will feel like you want to pull your hair out!

So create a routine to help you with structure around making time for play, making time for educational activities, making time for chores for everyone to do, however young the children are.

They can tidy up, clean, set a table, help sort clothes, wash dishes – so that the children are not just being forced to do schoolwork. They will also be learning that chores can be done by them as well. Have rewards for when the children follow the structure and do what they need to very well.

Create family time. This can be around prayer and a time that you come together as a family, read the Bible and pray together. It could also be a time to do puzzles, do a board game or go out and walk. You need to understand that children are watching how we are responding to this pandemic. Is it with fear and anxiety? How much of the media are you watching and causing more alarm to them? They will start to panic, so we also need to teach them how to cope during situations of emotional stress.

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Try not to show panic. Reassure your child that it shall be well. Tell them things like, “This is what we have to do. Wash our hands, use sanitiser and avoid touching your face.” You can also teach them that prayer works and that God is in control.

Supervise their schoolwork. Show them what they need to do and explain it. There is a certain age where they can do it independently but there is another age that requires you to sit there and watch and know that they are doing it right. There are those who just want to have mummy or daddy sitting there as they are doing their work for encouragement. You have to give them some school work to do because you don’t want them to regress, but at the same time you want them to enjoy being home and not work all the time.

Make it fun by doing activities on mobile devices or computer if you have one, that is educational but also fun. One of the ones we have been doing with my children is Khan Academy. They have different subjects and activities that the child can do independently on the computer.

Learn a task online. There is YouTube University and many free online courses out there. You can also come up with content for a YouTube channel since there is time. I have one called Nurturing Mums.

Build your relationship. The stress around this pandemic can cause some parents to lash out at their children. If you get to that point it is okay to get some time out. Go to another room, tell the children that you need mummy time, maybe one hour. For that one hour you can distract them with a puzzle, a book or it can be quiet time where nobody does anything or they can read and take a nap.

When your children want to see what you are doing, be easy about it. Explain to them what you are doing and show them. For instance, you may have a zoom call you can show them what you are doing, having muted your side of the call and show them how it is happening. Then tell them that between a particular time they will have to be silent.

Generally, take it positively that you are getting to know your children better and you are getting more time to spend with them than usual.

- Ciru Ciera, Childbirth Educator and founder of Nurturing Mums.

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