Changes in my child post lockdown

Children thrive off stability, routine, and consistency. They feel happy, safe, and secure when they know what is expected of them and when. A child will never thank you for boundaries and day-to-day routine, but those working with children can quickly identify those who have boundaries and routine in comparison to those who don’t.

Lockdown has led to our worlds being turned upside down. In a matter of days we went from “normal life” to being confined to our homes, with no access to school, work, friends, family members, or the other usual aspects of our lives. A family walk or bike ride was limited to the backyard. Children couldn’t see granny and grandpa, yet they were being told that older people were “at risk” for this unknown virus. Once lockdown was eased children were allowed to return to school… with masks, shields, thermometers, social distancing and strict rules that they may not give their teachers or friends a hug, School was intermittent for many, with one day attending, and the next day not. Just as we thought we were getting used to the new normal, schools were closed once again.

When we consider as adults how we struggle to adapt to the end of a December holiday, and the dread that many experience when we have to leave the comforts of our home and return to “real life” we can only imagine how this is unsettling for our children. Although we often find that we feel better and more settled the moment we are back at work and in our routines. The difference here though is that the children have no routine. They were forced to leave home, and return to academic work but with many rules, and no sense of stability.

Many parents are experiencing children having emotional meltdowns, difficulty convincing their children to attend school each day, and an increase in anxiety levels and behavioural difficulties. When we consider all our children have, and are, enduring it is no wonder they are having difficulty containing their emotions. Their worlds feel scary, different, and unpredictable. Many of us adults feel stressed and have our emotional baggage that comes with living through these times in terms of loss of income, work stress, sickly or at-risk family members, and lack of social support. Children pick up on our emotions, and this exacerbates their emotional distress.

Parents are also choosing to keep their children from school, and rather home-school if their school provides the option. While this is sometimes necessary, when family members are at-risk, it comes with a new set of troubles. As mentioned above, consistent attendance of school and other usual routines helps children to feel safe and secure. Many parents are thus facing the difficult decision of weighing up whether the benefit outweighs the harm of attending school during these times. This is no easy decision to make.

As parents we only want what is best for our children. We want to keep them and our other significant others safe from the virus, but we also want happy and confident young children. So, what can we do?

  • Try and stick to your daily routines as far as possible. Use what works for your family and do it consistently. This may be supper at a set time around the dinner table where you speak about your day. Perhaps a bedtime story read every night before lights are turned out. It may be a family walk or bike ride once a week. A movie or boardgame night one evening every weekend. There are so many wonderful ways to do this.
  • If saying goodbye in the mornings is difficult, try and create a positive and fun ritual of saying goodbye that is done each time. This could be a unique handshake you create together, a song you sing, etc. You can even use it each time you see each other in the afternoon or evening.
  • Constantly remind your children that they can chat to you about anything, at any time. Remind them that you are always available should they have questions. Sometimes we assume they know this, but they don’t, or they feel that their questions are silly. They need these constant reminders.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. If they do not want to attend school and we tell them there’s nothing to be scared of and they will have fun, we are not acknowledging their feelings. By saying I understand that you are feeling anxious about leaving home. I also get nervous when I have been home for a while and I must go to work all day. You can have these feelings. What do you think we can do about these feelings to help you feel better? By doing this we are validating and normalising their feelings, but then focusing on handing them back the power and working on positive coping tools.
  • Be patient. Be patient with your child, and patient with yourself. This is a tough time that we have all gone and are going through. Don’t underestimate the effect it has had on everyone from young to old.

Please note that this article is my opinion. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always consult a healthcare practitioner for personal medical advice and recommendations.

How do I know if my child is ready for Grade 1?

The demands of the Grade 1 classroom are a sudden change from the playful and informal environment of Grade R. We all want our children to progress and move up with their peers to the next grade. A child that is ready for formal learning is one that will thrive and develop confidence as they engage with the challenges posed in Grade 1. This leads to a positive attitude towards school and learning. We want to do what is best for our child. But how do we know if they are ready?

When considering whether a child is ready for Grade 1, we consider not only their academic abilities, but also physical, social, and emotional maturity and development. A child may be academically ready to start with formal learning, but if they have difficulty interacting with their peers on the appropriate level, or regulating their emotions, for example, then this is likely to affect their functioning in the classroom.

Some of the skills learners are expected to have acquired before entering Grade 1 are:

Physical and motor development:

  • Gross motor skills – climbing, walking running, jumping, standing on one leg, throwing, catching, and bouncing a ball
  • Fine motor skills – pencil grip, use of scissors, crayons, paint brushes, cutlery, etc.
  • Perceptual skills – visual and auditory perception
  • Self-care – dressing themselves, hygiene routines, etc.

Emotional and social development:

  • Independence
  • Confidence
  • Separation from parents
  • Responsibility for their belongings
  • Problem solving
  • Interacting with peers
  • Integrating with a group
  • Holding a conversation
  • Listening to others
  • Taking turns
  • Sharing with others
  • Willing to help a friend

Educational Psychologist in Port Elizabeth - Child Art


Cognitive development:

  • Observational skills – recognise differences and similarities
  • Ask questions and solve problems
  • Listen to and follow instructions
  • Use drawings, play, and various objects to express themselves creatively

  • Actively involve themselves in role playing, drama and story telling
  • Creatively express their understanding of the world around them
  • Understanding numbers and what they mean
  • Sequencing – count objects 1-10
  • Use objects or draw pictures to represent and solve simple addition and subtraction word problems
  • Sounds – identify beginning and end sounds in words for example hat starts with a “h”, cat ends with a “t”
  • Sounds – be able to identify similar sounds in words for examples words that start with the same letter such as bed and bat.
  • Recognise and provide rhyming words
  • Body concept – able to name body parts, and know what is part of them and what is not
  • Form concept – name shapes and forms
  • Form constancy – recognise, classify, and match forms, and understand that a form stays the same regardless of size or position
  • Size concept – name and distinguish between objects of different sizes using words such as “big”, “small”, “long”, “short”, etc.
  • Size constancy – recognise, classify, and match objects of a similar size
  • Colour concept – name colours and variations such as light and dark
  • Colour constancy – recognise, classify, and match objects that are similar colours

  • Memory – know basic colours, shapes, their date of birth, parent’s telephone number and home address
  • Recognise and possibly write their name
  • Part-whole concept – name parts of objects, e.g. half a cake or a quarter of pizza
  • Part-whole constancy – recognise, classify, and match similar parts for example half a cookie is similar to half a cake


Language development:

  • Converse in their mother tongue with ease
  • Both comprehend and express themselves fluently and meaningfully
  • Remember details from stories in a logical sequence
  • Broad vocabulary developed
  • Describe the size, shape, and colour of objects
  • Identify the differences and similarities between objects
  • Recognise letters particularly those in their name
  • Understand concepts of time such as before and after


School readiness can be shaped and influenced by the child, parents, and teachers. Involvement of significant people in the child’s life can positively affect their readiness for the Grade 1 environment, by motivating them to respond positively towards school. By stimulating your child’s senses and slowly introducing new concepts, such as numbers, colours, and shapes, you can influence your child’s readiness to learn. If you are aware of your child’s strengths and areas for potential growth, you can then assist your child in preparing for a positive experience of formal learning.

A school readiness assessment (usually done in the third term of their Grade R year) is a good way to determine if your child is displaying the necessary skills that they require for Grade 1. The results also give both the teacher, and you as the parent, information regarding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and which areas need to be developed before beginning Grade 1. Fun and creative activities can be suggested to build on the necessary skills through everyday life and play.

Every child is unique and develops at their own rate. Schooling in general is based on an average learner of a certain age in terms of development. We cannot expect all children to learn in the same way, and at the same speed. We need to be adapting our expectations and the environment for the child, not trying to squeeze the child into the mould created by society. By understanding your child’s strengths and areas for growth you can assist them to experience success and reach their full potential.


“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace which is right for each individual child.”
— Magda Gerber


The importance of playing outdoors

How much of your child’s day is spent playing outdoors? How much time do they spend riding a bike, climbing the tree, swinging, skipping or playing hopscotch? These activities have so much value for your child’s developing body, and have a huge influence on their academics! Balance, coordination, body awareness, spatial abilities, gross motor skills, muscle tone, and so many others are developed through these activities!

While many people view these activities as simply “play” and something that is done after the work, chores, or academic games are done… they are ignoring a huge part of a child’s development. This affects whether your child is able to sit up straight at a desk for a significant period of time, and even affects spelling, reading and maths, that all require spatial abilities.

How do gross motor activities affect a child’s learning?

  • Endurance during the school day
  • Sitting up straight at the desk for longer periods of time
  • Carrying school bags
  • Affects ability to engage in fine motor skill tasks such as writing, drawing, cutting, doing academic work
  • May affect activities in the classroom where the left and right hand are required to work together
  • Left-right discrimination can affect a child’s ability go from left to right when reading.

Some ideas of activities that can develop these areas:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Climbing a tree
  • Swinging on a swing
  • Rope ladders or wobble bridges
  • Climbing jungle gyms
  • Riding bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and pedal cars
  • Hop scotch
  • Jumping jacks
  • Playing with balloons or blowing and catching bubbles
  • 3 legged races
  • Hula hoops
  • Balancing beams
  • Indoor obstacle course – use furniture, pillows and blankets to create areas to crawl on, under and through
  • Outdoor obstacle course – hula-hoops to jump in and out of, jumping jacks, belly crawling, bear walking and other creative movements that challenge your child to balance, crawl, jump and run
  • Simon says
  • Musical chairs/statue
  • Swimming

These are all activities children naturally are drawn to. They need to be used in a fun way. Perhaps use these activities as a way for the family to spend quality time together. Encourage a walk to the park, and racing to be the first to the slide, or create an obstacle course for the children to complete.

Don’t underestimate the value of playing outdoors and being active. A child learns through play. Our world is shifting over to emphasizing academic performance and skills. What we often forget is that these “fun” outdoor activities assist the development of skills our children desperately need in the classroom. While there is great value in educational games, and practising academic skills, we need to be encouraging our children to be playing outdoors, and developing in ALL areas.

Parenting in a screen time crazed world

Screen time is one of the big buzz words you hear frequently amongst parents and in educational settings today. In our fast pace, busy and technology driven world our children are exposed to very different technology and media than we were as children. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they spend in school (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2001). By the age of 7 years, a child born now will have spent one full year of 24 hour days in front of a screen (computer games, internet, DVDs, etc.). Recent research shows that by the age of 18 years, the average European child will have been exposed to 3 years of 24 hour days of screen time (Clouder, 2012). This reflects an ever growing number of children exposed to appropriate or inappropriate content of what is on the screen.

The good and bad

We know that screen time isn’t all bad but we also know that too much isn’t good either. As a parent we are stuck in this dilemma of wanting the best for our children, yet technology can make parenting easier at times, and to add to this burden, it is becoming the norm for younger children to not only have access to, but also own their own gadgets. Deciding when, where, what and how with regards to screen time and technology and your child are a big part of parenting in today’s age.

Let’s face it, technology does make life easier. It is convenient to give your littlie a tablet or put on the TV when you need to cook or drive on a long road trip. In those moments it makes parenting easier, and everyone is happier. We also know that some of the games and shows we can expose our children to can be educational, but we need to closely monitor what they are watching or playing to ensure that they are beneficial.

One of the main areas of concern with screen time is that it doesn’t develop all areas of your child’s functioning. Aspects such as physical skills, language expression, social skills, etc. are not enhanced or even utilised in most of the games or TV programmes. Occupational therapists are noticing an increase in underdeveloped physical skills such as gross and fine motor abilities, crossing the midline or balance, which many feel are attributed to excessive screen time and therefore less time is spent playing outdoors, where these skills naturally develop. These skills have a profound effect on your child’s overall functioning, including academically. Some other potential negative effects of excessive screen time are speech delays, less restorative sleep, nature of parent-child relationships, health difficulties, effects on diet, negative effects on concentration, sensory overload, mental well-being, negative self-esteem, and increased aggression (Aduc, 2018).

Second hand screen time refers to the effect of others, when people in their environment are making use of excessive screen time. This includes children who are exposed to their parents spending a significant amount of time on tablets, computers, cell phones and in front of the TV. Research indicates that second hand screen time distracts the parent and decreases the amount of time the child and parent spend interacting with one another (Policy Statement, 2011). In turn various aspects of a child’s development can be affected. One example of this is poorer language development, as parents spend less time talking to their children or reading them stories, due to increasing time spent in front of the screen.

We all know that most children love spending time with technology, and often are able to work the gadgets better than the adults they are surrounded by. Use this love for technology to your advantage by using screen time as motivation, a reward for good behaviour or specific goals that are reached. We need to remember that screen time is a privilege and not a right. It can be difficult when your children’s friends are allowed excessive time on the tablet or in front of the tv, but in the long run you are helping your children more than they could ever imagine!

Tips for parenting in a technology driven world:

  • Ensure that you monitor and watch or play what shows or games your child is interested in. Get a feel for yourself what the game or show involves and if you feel it is suitable. Furthermore, try and keep watching and playing time for when there is adult supervision in the home.
  • Make sure that screen time is used in moderation. As with most things in life, balance is key.
  • Always ensure that screen activities are only a percentage of your child’s weekly activities. Encourage playing with blocks, Lego, puzzles, drawing, painting, playing outdoors, climbing trees, riding bicycles and spending time in make-belief play.
  • Model good screen time usage with your own actions. If you are spending excessive time with your cell phone in hand, or in front of the TV, it makes it very difficult to tell your child that screen time is only used occasionally.
  • Use technology as a reward. If technology is what your child loves and what motivates them then use it as a reward, for example when they have completed their chores for the day they make have access to the daily WiFi password.

  • “Screenbucks” is another creative parenting trick, which provides your child with something positive to work towards, as opposed to being punished or having a privilege taken away. By doing this, your child is responsible for their own TV time. You don’t have to be the “bad guy” by saying no. They can work for the screen time, if they choose to do so.  If they don’t do X, they don’t get screen time. Their behaviour results in the consequence. When their actions result in consequences, you are then able to sympathise with them and be on their team while facing consequences. i.e. “it is horrible when you can’t watch your favourite TV show, I know you love it. I’m sure tomorrow you will do your chores first thing and it will be super exciting to watch your show!” The world works with logical consequences, and this approach teaches your child about real world consequences and taking responsibility for your own actions and behaviours.

  • “Safe vision” YouTube is a mobile app that can be used by parents to control YouTube videos watched by their children.


Parenting is a tough job, and screen time makes it both easier and more difficult, all at once. Family and friends are all going to have varying opinions. There is no one size fits all approach that works for all children. Sit down and work out a plan that works for your family specifically, to ensure that you all get the most out of screen time, instead of relying on it unnecessarily. Decide on rules and stick to them. PS This includes mom and dad too! Balance, routine and boundaries is what your child needs, and creates a happier home environment for all.

“The point of parenting isn’t to have all the answers before we start out but instead to figure it out on the go as our children grow, because as they do, so will we”. -Bridgett Miller



  1. Aduc, T (2018). Excessive Screen Time: When Should We Worry. ADHD in Focus, 6(2): 10-11.
  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Children and Watching TV. Facts Fam 2001;54:1-2
  3. Sigman A. The impact of screen media on children: A Eurovision for Parliament. In: Clouder cet al.eds. Improving the quality of childhood in Europe 2012. Vol3. European Parliament group on the Quality of Childhood in the European union,2012:88-121
  4. Policy statement. Media use by children younger than 2 years old. Pediatrics, Nov2011;Vol128/5

Helping your child experience academic success

Supporting your child to be the best version of themselves is one of our top priorities as parents. The world is becoming increasingly focused on academic success, and parents often feel pulled into a rat race of preparing their child earlier and earlier to meet the demands of the classroom.

As human beings we each have our own strengths, and our own personal weaknesses. We all differ in our abilities, and thus we do not all learn in the same way. Each child is unique and has their own innate strengths. If we are aware of these and use them to our child’s advantage, they will be happy and confident individuals because we are building on who they are, rather than forcing them to fit the mould of what society expects.  We all want our children to reach their full potential, yet this requires us to be not only aware of their strengths but also be mindful of their personal weaknesses, so that we know which areas they need support in, and how best to do so.

A scholastic or academic assessment aims to explore all areas of functioning that affect a child’s performance academically. It is therefore important that a full scholastic assessment considers not only the child’s current level of functioning with regards to academic areas (reading, writing, spelling and mathematics) but also considers their cognitive abilities, physical skills that affect learning, memory, verbal and nonverbal abilities, concentration, and emotional functioning. All these areas are strongly intertwined, and all affect the learning process. It is therefore important that all these areas be assessed as a whole, to identify how best to support the learner.

An academic assessment can assist a child who is not reaching their full potential; a child who is gifted and needs to explore ways to ensure they are stimulated and challenged; and it can guide a child with a potential learning difficulty with regards to how best they learn, and thus how they need to be supported.

When parents, teachers, health professionals and of course the learner themselves have a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and unique styles of learning, then they can all provide the necessary changes to bring about the most effective learning. Changes in approaches to teaching, tools used in the classroom, seating arrangements, instructional methods, accommodations with assessments and any other additional support required can make a large difference. When those working with the learner are simply aware of how the learner learns best, and what factors are affecting their learning process, a shift in attitude often occurs, which alone can produce wonderful results.

Thanks to lockdown many of us have time to contemplate life. Contemplate life before the pandemic and contemplate what possible changes we want to make when we are able to resume our “normal lives”. This time is a wonderful opportunity to explore how we can better assist our children to become all they are meant to be.


“Children do well if they can, if they can’t we need to figure out why so we can help” – Ross Greene


Should I home-school my child?

Should I home-school my child?

Many aspects of our lives are up in the air since the beginning of lockdown. Our children’s education is no exception. After many weeks of remote schooling, Grade 7’s and matrics are now able to return to the formal academic classrooms. While the idea of returning to normal routine and life is a relief to many, others are understandably concerned about the practical implications of our children returning to school with other learners and staff.

In this time of lockdown buzzwords such as “home-schooling” and “remote learning” are being used frequently. Parenting is filled with constant decision-making regarding your child and family, and what is best, which can result in much anxiety. Many children are also finding this lockdown, and the possibility of return to school life daunting. Parents are now facing the decision of how to approach their children’s’ education as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted. Being informed about the various options, can assist you to feel more confident when making these decisions.

All children have the right to basic education, according to our constitution. By law it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that your child is educated from Grade 1 until Grade 9 (or 15 years of age).

A White Paper on Education and Training (Notice 196 of 1995, Department of Education) explains the principles on which the SA Schools Act is based. One of these principles that is applicable to home-schooling is the following:

“Parents or guardians have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, … Parents have an inalienable right to choose the form of education which is best for their children, particularly in the early years of schooling, whether provided by the state or not, subject to reasonable safeguards which may be required by law.”

Successful home-schooling is dependent on a number of factors. Each family is different. Home-schooling works well for some, and not for others. It is important that you read up and do your own research into the various options, as well as know what is involved, in order to determine if this is the best way forward for your family.


What is home-schooling?

In South Africa Home Schooling is “education at the learner’s home” and “education within the family, where most of the teaching is provided by a family member”. Home-schooling focuses on the individual child, and thus learning is adapted to their personal strengths and weaknesses. The child can learn at their own pace. It aims to encourage independent learning through a stimulating and creative environment.


What is the difference between home-schooling and remote-learning?

With school at home or distance learning, the teacher is the main instructor and will give your child assignments and tasks to complete. A teacher-learner relationship is maintained and there is a sense of someone else guiding the learning. With home-schooling, the parent guides their child in learning.

Distance learning is usually for a set period during the day. Learners are expected to check-in with their teacher, complete structured assignments, and continue to meet learning objectives. Distance learning will only continue until it is deemed safe to return to school. The aim of distance learning is to maintain the learners’ academic levels and ensure that there is continued connection between the teachers and learners.

Home-schooling, on the other hand, is way of life for a significant period of time. Learning is integrated into everyday life for the child and family. The child is learning through everyday routines, as well as more formal tasks. The focus is on mastery of concepts and building relationships through learning.


How do you go about applying for home schooling?

You will need to apply to the head of the provincial Department of Education and register your child for home schooling. The lessons you give your child will need to fall within the basic compulsory phases of education as set out by the National Department of Education. An ongoing record of your child’s work and progress would need to be kept.

See the following link for the application process required:


What is required by the Department of Education when home-schooling your child?


After your child has been registered for Home Education you must keep the following: –

  • record of attendance
  • portfolio of the child’s work
  • up- to- date records of the child’s progress
  • portfolio of the educational support given to the child
  • evidence of the continuous assessment of the child’s work
  • evidence of the assessment and or examination at the end of each year
  • evidence at the end of grade 3, 6 and 9, that shows whether your child has achieved the outcomes for these grades

The Department of Basic Education does not have a preferred home-schooling curriculum (all independent schools are free to adopt their own). One of the most challenging tasks for parents is to find the right curriculum, once you have decided on home-schooling. There are many sites and help groups available online. In order to assist you in making the right choice for your family ensure that you for research and chat to other home-schooling parents.


What are the advantage and disadvantages of home-schooling my child?


  • You get to determine the curriculum and your child’s schooling schedule. Flexibility of the schedule is an advantage for some. It allows you to travel as a family.
  • Some parents find home-schooling convenient as it limits transportation needed to and from school each day.
  • You are able to encourage a fun learning atmosphere. You can more readily apply content to everyday, real-life examples.
  • Home atmosphere generally is more relaxed, and schedule can be tailored to your child’s needs. This is particularly helpful with an anxious learner.
  • More individual attention can be provided, which is not always the case in large mainstream classes.
  • Home-schooling allows for unique learning needs, or if your child experiences a barrier to learning.
  • Due to the individualised attention you are able to adapt teaching methods that are best suited to how your child learns best.
  • You are able to spend extra time with your child on more difficult concepts and move ahead after they master a subject or concept. You can ensure that your child is constantly challenged and stimulated at the correct level.
  • Some parents prefer that home-schooling shelters their children from school violence, drugs, and other negative behaviours children in public schools frequently encounter.
  • Home-schooling allows you to spend extra time helping your child develop any special talents they possess, including musical, athletics, etc.
  • You are able to discuss controversial topics at your discretion with your children.
  • You get to enjoy spending more time with your child. Home-schooling provides opportunity to create strong bonds between parents and children.
  • You are able to assist your children during adolescence and other trying times.
  • Home-schooling ensures that you are aware of what your child is learning.
  • Some parents choose home-schooling for religious reasons – it allows you to teach faith in depth.
  • By working with your child daily you have the opportunity to mould their character and morality.
  • Home-schooling can include skills that are not necessarily taught in the formal mainstream classroom, such as responsibility with chores, managing accounts, maintenance and repair around the home, taxes, etc.


  • Being around your children all day long can be trying. This can be difficult when children become restless and misbehave.
  • Parents frequently find that they have to explain their reasons for home-schooling their children to friends and relatives who can question and disagree with their decision.
  • Learning can be a slow process and requires patience and perseverance. It is important that the parent is able to restrain anger and remain patient when the child is struggling with a concept. This can be difficult when you are not a trained teacher, and the roles of parent and teacher become blurred.
  • You need to be able to constantly adapt your approaches in order to be an effective teacher.
  • Some parents find that it is costly spending money on books and other learning materials.
  • Balancing between the roles of teacher and parent can be challenging.
  • Motivating your child to work and learn can be difficult, particularly when there are constant distractions of TV, toys, phones ringing, younger siblings, etc.
  • Home-schooling is time consuming for the parent involved, as the child needs someone who is fully committed to the process. If you are distracted, or busy with other tasks while teaching, it can be distracting for your child.

Read up more about home-schooling commonly asked questions:

Homeschooling FAQs


The decision whether or not to home-school is one that is unique to each family. Home-schooling may work for one family, and not for another. It is important that the parent is prepared and willing to make the commitment to be an effective teacher. Home-schooling your child is not an easy task, and the decision to do so should not be taken lightly. Although home-schooling can be stressful, it is also rewarding being an integral part of your child’s learning.

Emotionally supporting your child during lockdown

Emotionally supporting your child during lockdown

Lockdown is a time of turmoil for all of us. Our lives as we know them have been turned on their heads. It is overwhelming for us as adults not being able to interact with family and friends, not go outside or engage in our usual routines. This can be even more overwhelming for our children. Not seeing friends, going to school, seeing grannies and grandpas, or taking part in activities they love such as sport can be confusing and frustrating for children. Not to mention hearing all the news and constant chatter about the pandemic. Worries about the safety of their families, friends and their own lives is a concern that is prevalent among many children in uncertain times such as these.

It is important that while we are aware that while we as adults have many concerns during the chaos of lockdown, we need to keep in mind that our children are being affected emotionally as well. Our job as adults is to provide a safe place, where they can express their feelings and answer any questions they may have, in order to foster a sense of calm in our children’s topsy turvy worlds. Parents can help their children in small and practical ways to ease the emotional strain during this time.

  • Be aware that everyone responds in different ways to difficult times, such as these. Some children may not be affected at all, others may be obviously upset or distressed, others may avoid feelings. We need to respect each person’s feelings and ways of responding to events.


  • Encourage your child to openly speak about their feelings and ask questions. Children do need more consistent reminders than we realise. Constantly remind your child that you are there for them to talk to about anything, or to ask any questions. Don’t assume that your child has the same worries that you do. Pick good times to talk, look for natural openings to have a chat about certain topics.

  • Communicate with your child in age appropriate ways. Remember that children appreciate the truth, and they know when adults aren’t telling them the truth, or all the information. Providing them with a sense of understanding (in an age appropriate way) can be comforting. They do not need to be exposed to great detail, or know the current death toll for example, but they can be given age appropriate and child friendly information.


  • Help your child to name and identify their emotions. If they get angry and stamp their foot on the ground you could say “I can see you are feeling angry because you stomped your foot”. Acknowledge these feelings and validate them. Let them know that it is okay for them to be feeling the way they are feeling. Teach them to use their words, and by having a label for the emotion it feels more concrete and manageable. It gives the feeling that this is a common occurrence with other people, and therefore takes away the scary element, as they are not the only ones who feel this way.

  • Normalise emotions. Do not be afraid to share your own emotions and experiences. Being human and expressing your own thoughts helps your child to relate to you easier, and it instils the idea even further that their emotions are not unique to them and are normal. Show or chat to your child about how you cope with big feelings like sadness, boredom, nerves, etc. Demonstrate through actions and teachable moments during the course of everyday life how you deal and manage big emotions.


  • Be careful of social media exposure, or the family constantly talking about the pandemic. Children pick up on your emotions and tend to mirror these. Be aware that although the images and information may be acceptable for you, it could be upsetting for a younger child.

  • Keep up routines at home. Consistency and normalcy helps your child to feel secure and that although there is so much uncertainty in the world today, that home can still be a normal safe space. Continue to have set meal times, bath times, and bedtimes, for example.


  • Talk about the future, set goals and make plans. Discuss where you could go on your next holiday, start planning a “family day” or creating a new family ritual. Focusing outside of the lockdown, and developing a positive sense of purpose can be therapeutic for the whole family.

  • Encourage physical activity, as this reduces tension and increases the release of endorphins. When we start moving we start to feel more energetic and upbeat. Go for a family walk or cycle each morning; do a pilates, yoga or gym session as a family in the garden once a week; or create an obstacle course with household items in the backyard.

  • Help children enjoy themselves. Encourage them to do activities and play with others. The distraction is extremely helpful, and gives them a sense of normalcy. Encourage the children to play board games together, or build a fort under the dining room table.

  • Develop alternative ways of communicating with loved ones we cannot see in person. Not seeing grandparents, friends and other family members can be confusing and upsetting for a child. Try and bridge this gap with creative ideas such as:
    • Virtual “playdates” by connecting your child online with a friend for a virtual chat on a platform, such as Zoom, Skype, or a video call.
    • Get your child to write and send an email to their teacher, a friend in class, or a family member. They will enjoy getting an email message in return! An adult can also write an email message from a child.
    • Phone a friend or family member. Encourage your child to connect with one friend or family member on the phone each week. This exercise is beneficial for everyone!

  • Take part in activities as a family that help you to de-stress together: Do some simple breathing exercises, for example. Breathing becomes shallow when anxiety sets in; deep belly breaths can help children calm down. You can hold a feather or a wad of cotton in front of your child’s mouth and ask him to blow at it, exhaling slowly. Or you can say, “Let’s breathe in slowly while I count to three, then breathe out while I count to three.” Place a stuffed animal or pillow on your child’s tummy as he lies down and ask him to breathe in and out slowly and watch the toy or pillow rise and fall.


  • Don’t worry about knowing exactly the right thing to say — after all, there is no answer that will make everything okay. Most of the time all your child needs is you, not the perfect words or solution, but a parent that is present and loves them!

Being in lockdown is tough for all. Our children are feeling it too. A parent who is sensitive to this, and is simply present for their child makes the world of difference! “We can’t control everything that happens, but we can change our experience of those things” – anonymous.


Tips For Schooling Your Child During Lock Down

Lockdown has brought about a great deal of uncertainty. Physically there is uncertainty with fears regarding our own and our family’s health. Financial uncertainty is a worry for many during these times. Academically, there is uncertainty regarding the academic year, and how to assist your children.

Many parents are working remotely or are returning to work but are not able to take their children to school or have help around the home. This puts the parents in a difficult position before we even begin to consider the possibility of keeping your child up to date academically. It is normal to be feeling overwhelmed in these uncertain times.

Sometimes making small, practical changes can have a large influence and reduce the load for all. Here are some possible ideas to assist you as parents when supporting your children through these uncertain times:

  • Make use of this time to teach your children life skills that are not necessarily taught in the classroom.

Teach your child about household chores, cooking, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, and social and moral skills when interacting with one another. Encourage daily time to read.  Play board games as a family or encourage the children to play together. Engage in exercise where possible (skipping, stretching, yoga, follow a YouTube exercise class or jumping on the trampoline). Ensure that each child is involved with helping around the house, no matter their age. There are wonderful charts online regarding age appropriate chores. All these activities develop good life habits, foster a sense of responsibility and encourage a positive use of the time in lock down.

  • Establish and maintain a normal routine, as best as possible.

Ensure that although your child may not be attending formal schooling within a classroom, that they still follow a routine of an appropriate bedtime and a time to wake up in the morning. If your child is getting adequate sleep they are able to concentrate better, and it assists with getting out of the “holiday mode” and into a routine of schoolwork.

  • Set up an effective workspace.

Sit down at your child’s workspace and ensure that there is adequate lighting, ventilation and the temperature of the room is moderate. Make sure that the desk and chair are comfortable and at the correct height for your child. The desk needs to be placed in a quieter area, and not positioned near doors, windows or the tv.

Get a file with dividers for each subject area to encourage organisation of all the work completed at home. Teach your child to file each completed activity in order, within the correct section of the file. Set up stationery that is used only for schoolwork/homework that remains on the desk. Ensure that this stationery is never moved, to eliminate time being wasted searching for certain items or needing to get up to sharpen the pencil. Children are going to take chances to avoid doing work they don’t enjoy or do not feel they are good at. Working from home, out of routine, can make this even more difficult.  Being organised and prepared can alleviate a great deal of stress for all.

  • Organise a daily schedule.

Children do better when given structure and routine. Create a visual and colourful schedule and place it where your child can see it. We cannot expect children to complete the tasks if we are not guiding them. If the task is not written down and explicitly stated, chances are they won’t do it. Remember that organisation, time management and self-discipline are skills that need to be taught, and it is normal for children to have difficulty with these areas.

Create a schedule for yourself that fits into your child’s timetable, thus ensuring that you are present for the  areas where they need individual assistance, and that you are able to complete your own tasks (work or around the home) when they are taking breaks or engaging in less demanding content areas (i.e. colouring in, artwork, engaging in individual reading, etc). Ensure that when your child is completing formal learning tasks that are more demanding, stay nearby. If you are busy with other tasks during this time, you may not realise that they are struggling. Also keep in mind that if you are not providing individual attention with these more challenging content areas it can lead your child to becoming more easily distracted and thus the task takes longer to complete correctly.

By spending time organising your children’s schedules you can try to establish a better flow between your children that may be in various grades, your own tasks and balancing the use of limited technological devices if necessary. As quoted by Benjamin Franklin “for every minute spent in organising, an hour is earned”. There are wonderful ideas and free resources for setting up schedules online:

  • Start with the easier content first thing in the day.

By doing this, your child is starting confidently, and this creates a positive tone for the day. Start with the subject or content area that your child enjoys the most, or where their strengths lie. Perhaps even ask them to choose what area they would like to begin with. Ensure that you end off the day again with the easier content, as you then end off the “school day” on a positive note. This then sets a positive tone for the following day.

  • Make sure that you encourage regular breaks throughout the “school time”.

Perhaps set an alarm or timer, which prevents your child from constantly checking the time, yet ensures that breaks are taken frequently. These breaks need to include activities that get the blood flowing and gives your child some fresh air. Therefore, try and avoid screen time, and provide your child with various options such as playing with the dog, doing jumping jacks, having something to eat and drink, taking a walk around the garden, etc. Remember if your child becomes emotional, very little effective learning will take place. Rather take a 5 minute break to refresh.

  • Be aware of your child’s emotional needs and concerns during this time, as it is an emotionally charged period for us all, no matter our age. The article to follow will address some emotional aspects with regards to children that are important to consider amidst the Covid19 pandemic.

  • Chat to other parents.

Having someone to share your thoughts and feelings with during this time is extremely important. It is vital that despite social distancing we rely on each other, as there are many other parents feeling many of the same feelings that you are experiencing currently. Realising that you are not alone can provide a sense of relief and an opportunity to express your frustrations (yes you can have these). You may also find that you can benefit from other tips and tricks that other parents have found that work within their home.

  • Keep in mind that the aim of most schools right now is to keep you child intellectually stimulated despite the circumstances.

Nobody is expecting you to be a qualified teacher and cover all the content perfectly. Not every child has access to technology and Wi-Fi. Some children have parents working the frontline as essential service providers and thus they do not necessarily have someone assisting with their schoolwork. Do the best you can, in your current situation, and maintain open communication with the teacher. The teachers will support where necessary once schools are able to reopen.

  • Make time to have fun with your child.

This can be a movie date, picnic in the garden, a weekly board game, etc. Make the most of this time spent at home. It will be good for everyone!

  • Be kind to yourself!

This is an extremely trying time for everyone. There is so much uncertainty and managing work, running a household without help and now with home-schooling added to this pile it can all be extremely daunting. Take it one step at a time. Nobody is expecting you to be perfect and get it all right. Look after yourself. You cannot give to your child if your cup is empty. Look after yourself first and foremost. Your children pick up on your emotional state – so if you are positive this will be mirrored by your child.




Tips For Parenting During Lockdown

Tips For Parenting During Covid 19

In South Africa we are currently in a period of lock down, which leads to a great deal of uncertainty. For the adult this includes not only uncertainty regarding our physical health, emotional well being, and financial concerns, but our children are also facing their own uncertainties in terms of academic stress and anxieties regarding the fragility of life. For many of us, this is a time of being forced to slow down, and more time spent within the walls of our homes. Many of us may spend it re-adusting our business plans to suit the changing world we are living in, others are working remotely, some are spring cleaning or binge watching series.

We cannot change the fact that our movement and work is restricted, yet we can change how we use this time. Being forced to slow down and redetermine our priorities is one of the blessings in disguise for many during this tough time. One of  the ways we can positively shift our focus and use this time, is to engage with our children in ways that we never have time to do in our normal lives. We live in a fast paced world, where we are all engrossed by the need to keep up with the rest. For many parents, who are raising their children single handedly, juggling more than one job, and simply trying to make ends meet, time is something that is not on their side.

As an educational psychologist, I daily see the benefits and advantages of a parent that has taken out time to spend with their child. This does not necessarily need to be a costly experience, nor does it need to consume the whole day. A simple half an hour of playing your child’s favourite board game can have the biggest impact. Your child will appreciate that you have taken time out of your busy day, and engaged with them in something they enjoy. You have met with them at their level. No matter how brief, this form of genuine interaction has lasting effects. The attachment and bonding that is developed during times such as these goes a long way when it comes to discipline, moral development, whether your child chooses to come to you to tell you something that has happened, or whether they ask someone outside of the family for advice. By doing so, you are creating a trusting, caring relationship, where you are encouraging an open relationship of communication and trust.

A child that feels loved and valued is one that enters the classroom, playground, social situations, and so much more, with more confidence. The choices they make on a daily basis regarding the friends they choose, whether or not to do the “right thing”, the words and actions they make use of, all reflect their feelings of self-worth and how much value they attribute to themselves. A child who spends quality time with their parents is one that feels more secure, and is less likely to search for love and acceptance in unhealthy or unacceptable ways. The benefits of quality time spent with your child are too numerous to count.

In our stressed, busy and chaotic lives we struggle with finding enough time to simply get through the necessities of the day, never mind make time to play a child’s game. I find that many parents report that they cannot make the time. My recommendation to these hardworking parents is to make the most of the mundane day-to-day-tasks that have to be completed. Use the time washing dishes to chat to your child about their day. What did they enjoy, what was their high and low light of the day? Make time to all sit around the table in the evening when eating dinner and use that time to each share about your day. Make the most of the time spent driving in the car to and from school, or various appointments to chat to your child, and find out more about what is happening in their lives. By doing this, you will be sending your child the message that you are interested and care about them and what happens in their day. Try and set a weekly family time, even if it is one hour on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning. A time when you play a family game, go for a walk to the park, or engage in some other activity where the family is actively enjoying each other’s presence, and not distracted by a screen.

I am very aware of how difficult this challenge is. It involves making sacrifices and prioritising your to-do-list in a different way. But the value of you doing this is immeasurable. The benefits of which you will continue to see throughout your child’s journey to adulthood. My challenge to all you incredible, hardworking parents is to make the most of these days in lock down. Turn this negative into a positive. Use this time to  meet your child on their level and watch your relationship grow!

The wonderful value of playing board games with your child!

“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery” – Erik E. Erikson

The value of board games

Board games are a wonderful way to connect with your child, have family time, and foster bonds between family members. It is a brilliant way for adults to destress and step into an alternate reality, but it also assists your child to develop in many areas. Board games encourage quality time that does not involve time spent glued to a screen. Many view board games as a fun activity to be used only when the chores and homework are done. What many don’t realise is that a board game has many educational benefits for your child!

Physical benefits

Physically a board game can develop dexterity, fine motor skills, and spatial abilities. By handling the pieces, the dice, or moving a jenga block we are developing the small muscles in the hands and fingers, that are responsible for a child’s ability to write quickly and neatly, tie a shoelace, paint, etc. Hand eye coordination is developed, as your child is often expected to make use of both their visual and motor skills simultaneously during the course of a game.  Visual processing is also developed in many games, as it encourages your child to process what they are seeing accurately and quickly. This is a fundamental skill behind letter, word, and number recognition. Games such as Uno, snap, and other card games, are some games that can develop this skill.

Concentration and impulse control

Board games also develop concentration and impulse control. A child is expected to sit still and focus on one activity until completion for a set period of time. This encourages your child’s concentration abilities to be developed. Furthermore, a child is expected to wait their turn, and in many games they are required to work with care in order to succeed, such as pick up sticks, jenga or tumbling monkeys. All of these tasks encourage impulse control, with natural consequences if they choose to act impulsively.

Social skills

Social skills are enhanced through the playing of board games. We learn to take turns, share, enjoy the company of others, be patient, play as a team, and be a good sportsman if we lose. A child learns great values by witnessing their parents lose a game, and still having fun. Alternatively experiencing how it feels to both win and lose, and how to react, is also learned in a practical way. A game is also played with set rules, boundaries and expectations, without which the game would not be fun. It encourages your child to try various strategies and approaches, but within predetermined limits. These basic skills can all be applied to life outside of board games.


Communication and verbal ability is also encouraged when playing games. Naturally we engage in conversation, by both expressing ourselves, and making use of our receptive abilities and listening to others. Games such as Headsup and 30 seconds junior are some ideas of games that specifically develop communication and language development, as they have to explain and describe various objects, ideas, people or places. Certain games also require the child to follow instructions, such as twister or mouse trap. If the child does not listen or read carefully and acts impulsively they will not make the correct move. It is not just certain games that develop language. Through simply conversing with your child, you are naturally developing their vocabulary, general knowledge, and sentence construction.

Cognitive and academic skills

Many academic and cognitive skills are also developed through various board games. Identification of colours, shapes, and numbers are required on certain games, which are prerequisite skills for school readiness. Games such an Uno or other card games require the identification of numbers and colours. Many games require that you count out a set number of spaces, based on the dice that has been rolled. Grouping, counting, problem solving, and creating strategies are often involved in many games. Your child has to develop strategies, for example, when choosing which block to remove in a jenga tower, or which stick to attempt to pick up in a game of pick up sticks. Chess is a wonderful game to specifically develop strategy formation skills. Certain games require letter or word recognition and reading, yet this is done in a fun way. Often the child does not even realise they are practising their basic reading skills. I spy can be played anytime and anywhere, which helps your child with sound-letter relationships. Games such as monopoly, trivial pursuit junior, or top trump cards are some ideas of games that can require reading. Through playing games such as these your child is able to experience the value of being able to read in day to day life. Spelling and vocabulary skills are built on with games such as Scrabble or Bananagrams. Memory games or games such as snap encourage memory abilities to be developed, as you need to concentrate and remember what you have just seen, while considering your cards. Logical and critical thinking, as well as reasoning are also often required, and therefore overall cognitive development is encouraged. A child is also expected at times to make tough choices, consider the consequences of such actions, and the long term effects. In a card games for example, your child has to decide whether to play certain cards, and therefore has to weigh up the risks and potential benefits. They then have to handle to the consequences that come about as a result of this choice. All of these skills can be applied to real life.

The challenge

Naturally, a child learns through play. Ensuring that we make time in our busy schedules is a difficulty many parents experience. My challenge to all reading this post is to schedule a weekly family game time. By allocating a designated half an hour once a week, at a set time, we are more likely to follow through, and therefore form a family routine. Try this for a few weeks, and start to notice how such simple games can have such wonderful effects. Effects you maybe hadn’t always been aware of! Your child isn’t going to look back one day and have memories of the movies they watched, or the games they played on the ipad as a child… Laughing, chatting and making memories as a family through quality time, those will be the moments they remember.