Balancing Complex Caregiving and Educating Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Kimberly Sullivan

child doing schoolworkMany parents were rapidly promoted to teachers in the last week, due to the COVID-19 crisis. This sudden unexpected turn may make many parents of children who are complex feel overwhelmed. How am I supposed to care for my child’s complex needs and still make sure all my children are not falling behind in their schoolwork? There are just not enough hours in the day for all of this. My kiddo who is complex takes so much time!

First of all take a deep breath! You are not expected to do six hours of schoolwork with your children. People who homeschool their children only spend one or two hours a day on “schoolwork” with their kids. When you work one-on-one with your child, you only have to go over the material until they understand, then you can guide them to solve the remaining problems on their own. It may only take five minutes before your child gets it! Your child’s school may also provide online e-learning to help provide additional resources to guide you. If you can’t figure something out, check with your child’s teacher.

Learning through Play and Fun

Many years ago, young kids were expected to do the majority of their learning by playing. If your kids are young, give them the gift of learning through play. Puzzles, coloring pages, simple books, dress up, finger painting with shaving cream in the tub, and playing with blocks are all great learning activities. Set up a few fun activities for your young kids and let them play and learn while you do the care for your child who is medically complex.

Right now, the temperatures are still often questionable for outside activities, but days are warming up and there is so much learning that can happen outside. Give your children some Physical Education opportunities by letting them play outside in your yard. Take sidewalk chalk outside and do math problems in the driveway! Read books together sitting on your deck or have a picnic outside for lunch. Go on a scavenger hunt looking for new leaves on trees, find little sprouts that will soon become spring flowers, look for birds, take the dog for a walk. All of these are great opportunities to spend time with all your kids while you keep a careful eye on your child with complex care needs.

It is a great time to explore new music genres. There is no need to lose your mind listening to Baby Shark when classical, jazz, blues, old pop, country, and showtunes exist! Relieve your teen years playing all your favorites while your kids laugh at you. Explore fun musical instruments together. Grab that old guitar gathering dust in the corner and play the songs you learned in sixth grade. Make new musical instruments from YouTube videos. There are many ways to use music to add to your kids’ day.

Online Activities

It has always been advised that you should limit your child’s screen time. With e-learning it might seem like all their screen time is used doing their schoolwork. Relax the rules on screens to exclude school time. Many of the museums, zoos, aquariums, and other field trip worthy exhibitions have added online experiences to enhance your child’s at-home learning time. My personal favorite is the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which has a daily penguin adventure where they let their Rockhopper penguins roam different areas of the aquarium. Watching waddling penguins is a guaranteed smile maker.

Online story time, art lessons, and other fun activities have been posted to help you entertain your child. Don’t forget about your local library. Many have added online content to continue the educational fun. Music is another great way to keep your kids busy while you tend to your children who are complex. Dance parties are fun and keep your kids moving.

Life Skills

By this time, you have done everything you can think of and look over at the clock to discover that it is only noon! Now what? Involve your kids in learning about food and nutrition while you prepare lunch. Even little kids can help wash fruit and veggies with a stool to help them reach the sink. Let them put ingredients in the bowl prior to making cookies or their lunch. Show them how to measure ingredients in a measuring cup. Help them stir. Have your older kids make lunch themselves. Search for recipes that they can make. Put out a plate of healthy snacks and make Bento boxes for lunch. So much learning can take place in the kitchen and give you time to get things done as well.

There are so many other fun things that you can do to entertain your kids that can be done as a family. Do a jigsaw puzzle, play a fun game, play backyard baseball, play catch, play with hula hoops. Be sure to join in the fun if possible, because seeing you be silly and having fun is going to be a stress relief for you and is going to make your kids laugh.

Make Memories and Keep it All in Perspective

Years from now, your kids are going to still be talking about the time that weird virus was going around and everyone had to stay in their house for days and days and they played with mom and dad. It was so funny when Dad tackled Mom playing football. These are the things your kids will remember. They will be the fun things they look back fondly on during their childhood. They won’t remember that you couldn’t do the math lesson the teacher sent home. They will remember how fun it was spending time with their mom and dad. Those were the good old days!

Most of all, don’t expect so much from you and your kids. You are not a failure if you can’t get all of the e-learning suggestions done in one day; you are not a failure if you have to turn on Frozen 2 for the thousandth time so you can do your child’s medical treatments. And you are not a failure if your kids have extra screen time because you need a moment to yourself to breathe.

Author: Kimberly Sullivan • Date: 3/26/2020

About the Author

Kimberly Sullivan has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She homeschooled her son with complex needs for 12 years. In addition to running a pet care business, writing a blog called Please Don’t Pet The Special People, and being the CEO of the Sullivan family, she recently added a puppy to their pack of two other dogs.

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