Anna Shusterman with her sons Max and Reuben.
Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology and co-coordinator of education studies, studies learning and conceptual development in children. In this Q&A, we asked her for advice for families on transitioning children to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Q: How should parents talk to kids about what’s happening in the world and why their daily lives look so different?
A: Full disclosure: I am not a clinician. However, as a parent and a research psychologist, I think it’s important for parents to validate their children’s emotions rather than dismissing them or telling them they are being silly. It’s also important that we’re not running around in a state of panic, as this can be too unsettling for kids. Children feel our stress and they need real social connection, so some time should be made for sitting together, talking, and reading books, when parents put their phones away, too. NPR’s Life Kit has good advice on talking to kids about scary current events.
No matter what else is happening, young children need human connection—board games, talking, working together on a project, cooking, anything together, the more child-led the better. Here’s a good commonsense report on the topic.
Q: What is your advice for parents on helping kids transition to distance learning?
A: Try to set up a gentle routine that involves getting up, getting dressed, chores, exercise, creativity, academics, regular meals, and sleep. By age 5 or 6, children can be a part of the conversation to create this schedule.
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