Many countries have now closed schools as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, leaving many parents to juggle their own job and the role of a teacher.
Keeping children focused and motivated to continue studying, while also providing them with enough productive activities to keep them occupied in down-time is no easy task.
However, some might see this additional family time as an opportunity to teach children life skills they don’t learn in school and only get to grips with as an adult.
An important starting point, says Tooled Up Education CEO Dr. Kathryn Weston, is to understand the individual interests of different children.
“You want to cultivate curiosity and encourage research skills,” she told CNBC.
While an unprecedented crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic, can create feelings of anxiety, Weston said it is important that parents keep control of their emotions in front of children.
“Parents have to model a sense of hope and positivity, as hard as that is,” Weston said, explaining that teaching children this emotional resilience can help them to learn the areas of life they can control in uncertain times.
“We can control our attitude, we can control our levels of kindness that we show others, we can control our spending, we can control our consumption, we can control all of those things,” she said.
Weston also underlined the importance of teaching children about gratitude, explaining that this helps them to “reframe” challenges.
‘Ultimate training ground’
Weston said parents could view this time to provide children with the “ultimate training ground,” giving them an early start to learning life skills for when they no longer live at home.
Restrictions are now in place around the world, limiting how often people can leave the house to visit shops, for example, as part of efforts to reduce outside human contact and curb the further spread of COVID-19.
Signs have also appeared in many shops, rationing the number of certain products people can buy at one time, to combat the panic stockpiling that has taken place amid increasing fears about the pandemic.
At home, however, Weston said this offers the opportunity to teach children about rationing, cooking and budgeting for food.
Equally, she suggested sewing, knitting and gardening, as some other skills that can help children to become more self-sufficient.
Positive messages about money
Besides basic budgeting, Dan Scholey, COO of money management app Moneyhub, encouraged a creative approach to teaching young children about money.
“Take a receipt and ask them to work out how many different combinations of coins make up the amount — so £2.50 ($3.06) could be two £1 coins and a 50p coin,” he suggested.
Lots of banks and money apps now allow users to sweep leftover change into a separate savings pot, he pointed out.
“Sweep 30p on a packet of biscuits and whilst it might not seem like much, it won’t take long to accumulate in the long run,” Scholey said, enabling children to see how money can grow over time.
He urged parents not to underestimate a child’s ability to understand and engage with finances, arguing that stereotypes of young people wasting money can get in the way of teaching them positive messages.
Learn from older generations
While it might seem strange to talk to a child about pensions, Scholey said kids can learn a lot about saving by talking to older generations.
“Speak to a retiree and you might find that there are lessons in money they wish they knew earlier in life,” he suggested.
Given how much time children may be forced to spend occupying themselves inside, Tooled Up Education’s Weston said that now is the ideal time to teach children about online safety.
“This is a time when children will be online a lot, and it’s very important in terms of practical skills that we start teaching them how to navigate that digital world safely,” she said.
But Weston said parents could also teach children how to use their digital skills more altruistically, to connect with the wider community during self-isolation, or even entrepreneurially.
“Most teenagers now know how to do HTML, how to build a website but it’s using it in a positive way to demonstrate that they’re great digital citizens,” she said.