COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on individuals, families and societies.
No one was prepared for this great disruption to our day-to-day living.
Even now, after 18 months, many of us are still learning how to respond to the situation.
But this is the best opportunity to give our children introductory knowledge of the following: philosophy (what life means and how to live it); economics (how to use it for decision-making); psychology (how to use it for our well-being); sociology (how it helps us to understand our social space); and politics (how it impacts our lives).
To achieve the above, let us look at how families have been coping with their children’s education during the enforcement of the movement control orders.
Some families are equipped with good Internet facilities whereas others do not have them.Some enrol their children in good schools with caring and well-trained teachers, while others may not have that kind of experience.
But it’s safe to say that all families are generally not trained to manage the current learning environment and the stress their children face every day.
Tensions are high when all sorts of problems emerge, from Internet breakdowns to exam failures.
The consequences can be damaging to the families and their children for a long time to come.
Hence, in supporting our children, here are some areas that parents can take into consideration:
Establish a daily family routine
This involves discipline and time management.
Set a schedule for studying, eating, playing, exercising and sleeping.
It is also important to allocate time for family get-togethers that involve shared activities such as recreational entertainment and general discussion.
Children can be roped in to help with some household chores, as that gives them a sense of family responsibility.
Learning to cook together is fun, as well, and children like it.
There should also be conscious effort in practising good manners such as saying “thank you” and “please” in communication as that develops their personal maturation.
The end of each day should be a joyful one, and that could include telling children some nostalgic family tales before they go to bed.
Create a learning space
This gives children a sense of ownership and pride. Basic Internet facilities and a study desk must be provided.
This is a good opportunity for children to learn to manage their study materials.
Familiarise ourselves with online pedagogy
Work closely with teachers. Without putting too much pressure on our children, learn how to monitor their homework, assignments and projects.
It is also important to track their cumulative learning, and make adjustments where necessary.
Cultivate good formative habits
All parents want their children to excel. It is good to set goals, but to have high expectations may not be wise.
This can cause frustration among children and lead to negative effects.
Progress is always preferred to perfection.
In life, being number one can be stressful for some of us.
Encouraging children to enjoy the learning journey is a wiser move. Coupled with this is to teach them discipline and useful behavioural expectations.
These are good formative habits that will stand them in good stead in future.
Practise empathetic compassion
Being together for long stretches of time and in a confined physical environment can create conflict among family members.
This can affect children who also have their own stresses and frustrations.
It is thus critical that we constantly remind ourselves to be calm, gentle, patient and kind.
Empathetic compassion – that is, strong feeling with action to help – is required. It is thus good practice to anticipate rough days or bad news.
For instance, if a child does not do well in an exam, it is not the end of the world.
This is the time to show patient encouragement.
Parents and grandparents should give children social space and time to allow them to confide feelings and anxieties.
This is the best time to build family trust and devotion for each other.
Some families even have daily prayer sessions.
Set up a parent-teacher communication platform
This helps to eliminate a lot of uncertainties, and also create trust and a culture of sharing.
It prevents miscommunication or the lack of it, as well. Stress and conflicts will be reduced.
Cooperating to communicate with each other is the best way forward. This builds the community spirit in our multiethnic and multicultural society.
Be exemplary in our conduct
We are being watched by our children and our emotions can affect them very fast.
So, as parents, we have to adjust our mindsets and contain our emotions so that we are calm on all occasions.
Adopt a positive outlook and in time, our children will acquire these positive habits too.
These are some general suggestions. Each family is different and what each can do is constrained by its background realities. Regardless, we must be optimistic about giving our best to our children or grandchildren. It is not easy.
But the fact remains that we have to help our next generation to prepare for their future.
In the end, what really matters is that our children emerge from this global crisis emotionally resilient, mentally stable, intellectually sharp and physically healthy.
They must have high self-esteem and optimism.
Their future should not be impaired by this Covid-19 disruption. Their destinies are in our hands.
Prof Datuk Dr Paul Chan is the co-founder, vice-chancellor and president of HELP University (Malaysia). The views expressed here are the writer’s own.