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How do I deal with Early Learning and Childcare settings and schools closing?

Let’s be honest, this is a tough time for everyone. It’s understandable to be worried about how you’ll cope. But don’t forget, you’re not alone in this and it’s new for everyone.

Take things one day at a time and be kind to yourself and your family. No one is expecting you to be a teacher – you’re already doing the most important job of all, loving your child.

Critical childcare provision details

The Scottish Government and local authorities are working together to ensure key workers with no other option for childcare can request access for childcare to allow them to continue to play their vital role in the national response to COVID-19.

Decisions around eligibility for key worker childcare will be taken locally, in line with the guidance available here:  

We want to reduce the impact of the virus, keep children and families safe and save lives. Only key workers who cannot fulfil their critical functions may qualify for critical childcare provision. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.

Where do I even start?

First things first, remember to look after yourself. This is a stressful time for everyone. You can find helpful advice for keeping calm on the Mind website and our pages about managing the challenges of parenting.

Am I meant to be home schooling my children now?

All that’s being asked of parents is that we manage as best we can. For a number of years parents could apply to home school their children. If their application was accepted there would be lots of extra requirements placed on them. This is not like that.

So please don’t worry. You’re not expected to become a teacher, this is not like a normal school and this is not a competition.

You’ll want to keep your kids occupied, and learning at home is a good way to do this. Remember, we’re all in this together. Your child’s school will try to provide as much support and advice as they can. Other parents might have hints and tips. You will find a lot of advice and ideas online, including on this website. However, you should not feel under pressure to “home school” in the formal sense. 

What should I be focussing on?

Right now, the most important thing you can do for your children is support them through this difficult time. But this doesn’t mean you have to be paying attention to them 24/7. You have other stuff to do as well – like working from home, or checking up on other friends and family members via email, phone or video chat, or having some precious time to yourself to relax.

The best way you can support your kids is to set aside some time to talk to them and answer any questions they have, and to have some fun! Below are some tips to help with this, and links to further resources that might help you.

Tips if you have younger children

Start small. If you have a young child, the best thing you can do is play together. Read stories, sing songs, dance around and have fun. We’ve got, fun family games to play indoors, ideas for ball games, ideas to keep kids entertained in the kitchen and tips for making bathtime fun.

Let them take the lead and see what fun you can have. You could even ask them to help you make lunch and snacks or sort the washing – our page on getting the kids to help around the house has more ideas.  

Tips if you have older children

If your children are older, their school may have sent you work to complete at home as well as extra materials and tips. Try not to feel overwhelmed by this, you don’t have to do this all at once. Teachers are doing their best to provide something for the kids to do at home so you don’t have to find resources yourself. But if your kids are finding it difficult to concentrate on work right now, that’s okay! Help them to take time out and find a way that works for you.

Your children might be feeling worried at the moment, and that’s understandable, so your priority should be making sure they are secure and happy. If you have any questions, your school will be setting up ways to support you.

Take this chance to talk to your kids about the things that interest them. Often, just talking and listening together is the best place to start – and we can learn something about ourselves as parents too!

Older children can also learn from everyday activities like cooking and cleaning, and this will help them feel useful and keep them busy.

No matter what age your child is, don’t worry if things don’t go to plan. This is a new experience for everyone. Spending time together is one of the best ways to support your child.

You can find more ways to support your teen’s learning at home here.  

Tips if you have more than one child

If you’ve got more than one child at different stages of learning, it can be tricky juggling these different priorities. We’ve put together some tips to try to help you and your family.

Tip #1: Think outside the box

If you can, try to think of activities that are suitable for a range of different age groups. Creative activities are particularly good for this, you could get them to put on a puppet show with their toys, or even make up a story about something they can see out the window. 

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Tip #2: Write a letter

You could ask your kids to write a letter or draw a picture for a family member and post it to them. This is an especially great idea if you have a family member who may be at home alone during this difficult time. A letter or picture from your kids may be just the pick me up they need! 

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Tip #3: Easy freezy activities

If you can, try to set up some activities for your little ones that they don’t need much help with, so you can dedicate some time to your older kids. One great example is to freeze some small plastic toys in a block of ice, then let them use plastic cutlery to chip away and dig for treasure – just make sure their ‘tools’ are suitable for kids!

There are more ideas like this on our things to do for toddlers and children pages.

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Tip #4: Help around the home

Now that you have some extra hands around the home, your yearly ‘spring clean’ could be a great family activity. If you can, why not task your kids with helping you with some housework. Or, get them involved in some home cooking with you by measuring out ingredients or reading instructions.

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Tip #5: Playing schools

If you have an older and a younger child, you could ask the older one to do some role playing and pretend to be a teacher. They could create some fun lessons for the younger ones to keep them busy throughout the day and you get to be the headteacher.

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Should I be worried about my child's education?

Keeping your child and your family safe, happy and healthy are the most important things parents and families should focus on at this time.

But with your kids not being at early learning and childcare or school at this time, it’s understandable to be concerned that they might not be progressing in their learning as much as they should. 

The best thing you can do right now is not put too much extra pressure on yourself and do what you need to do to get through this period. 

Your child’s school or early learning and childcare setting may be in touch with you to arrange some learning tasks for your kids to get on with while at home. They may do this through email, by text, via online platforms or even by sending a lesson pack through the post. 

The learning provided from the school or early learning and childcare setting is not there to test you or trip you up, so don’t worry if you can’t complete it – you’re not expected to become their teacher. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, or you feel that the learning is too much to handle, contact the school and let them know. They are there to help. And remember, your family’s wellbeing is the most important priority. 

If you need to take a break from work your child has been sent, that’s absolutely fine. You can let the kids do jigsaws, go for a long walk as a family, or direct their own learning. If trying to get your kid to do schoolwork is leading to arguments and tension, stop. Go and have some fun for a while. You can always come back to it later on once everyone is feeling more calm.

This situation won’t last forever, and there will be time for them to catch up. And try to remember that it’s the school’s job to be ready for the child, not the child’s job to be ready for school!

Should I worry about too much time spent playing?

Don’t feel guilty about letting your child play. Play is a really important part of life, particularly at difficult times like this, and is actually part of Scotland’s school curriculum.

Playing helps children and young people:

  • stay emotionally healthy
  • stay physically active
  • relax and forget about any worries
  • learn and make sense of new experiences and changes in their world
  • cope with feelings that are difficult or frightening.

Play helps kids become more creative, learn to solve problems and work out what they think and how to respond. So if you see them putting face masks on their teddies or building a hospital out of blocks, or returning to games they used to play when they were younger, this is just their way of coping with the situation. It’s also important for older children and adults too! 

The best thing you can do to support this is to give your child enough time and space to play every day and be prepared to put up with a bit of noise and mess. Get outside for exercise with your child each day, no matter what the weather, as it’s important for their development. If your child sees that you’re happy they’re playing, they’ll enjoy it more.

No matter what age your children are, we have lots of play activity ideas that can help develop their skills, have fun and keep you fit and healthy as a family.

What if my child is starting an early learning and childcare setting or school?

Whether your child is moving into early learning and childcare, primary school, high school or anywhere in between, it’s understandable to have questions about what happens next and how they will be supported.

Try to remember that your child’s early years workers, teacher, or head teacher will be thinking about the best way to support the changes that your child will be going through. Even in these very difficult circumstances, your child’s school or early learning and childcare setting will do their best to support your child to make their transition a smooth and positive experience.

If your child has additional support needs, it’s possible that the school were putting in place extra support to assist the transition, and it’s natural to be anxious about what will happen now. Schools will be contacting parents regarding transition, but if you’re concerned then do get in touch with them.

It's understandable to want to help your child’s transition to a new stage in their learning. Talk with your child and try to listen to any concerns they may have. This will help you discuss these in more detail with your child’s early learning and childcare setting or school.

Further information on transitions is available on the Parentzone Scotland website.  

For those starting school, there are a range of children’s books that cover this topic and can help to start a conversation with your wee one. There is also a range of resources from BBC Bitesize here.

What should I do if my teenager was preparing to sit their exams this year?

For families who had been preparing to undertake exams this will be an unsettling time and you and your teenager are likely to have lots of questions about what will happen now.

The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) – the exam board for Scotland – is working to find a way to recognise learner achievement in as fair a way as possible. Your child’s school will likely be keeping in touch – in the first instance, please keep an eye out for updates from your school. Further information is available from the SQA website. The SQA is also strongly encouraging all candidates to sign up to MySQA, its online and text service, as a direct way to receive their results.

You can find more ways to support your teen’s learning at home here.  

Why is everyone else managing better than me?

Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends, but it can also be an additional source of stress and guilt. Looking at posts on Facebook or Instagram may make you feel that everyone else is coping better than you. They’re not. They’re posting about the 2 minutes of the day when things went right, when their kid painted a picture, or set up a treasure hunt, or baked a cake. They’re not posting about the tantrum they had afterwards.

Remember, it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to cry and it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed at a time like this.

Need more help?

If you’re having to balance looking after your children with working from home, we’ve got some great tips from other parents here

You can find more hints and tips on how to support your child’s learning at home here

If you need further learning resources to help get you started, check out our page here

It's also very likely that your child’s school will be in touch with advice and support on learning at home. Sometimes they may be able to provide you with information or advice. However, your child’s teacher and head teacher will be juggling a lot of things at the moment. This means that they may not be able to get back to you with answers right away.  

When are schools reopening?

Schools are set to reopen in August. However, things won’t be the same as they were before the coronavirus outbreak – schools will be making changes to ensure that everyone stays safe. You can find out more on our back to school FAQ page here.

Being a parent is the best job in the world, but it can also be one of the most stressful. There will be days when it all feels a little too much. To help you manage the challenges ahead, Parent Club has some tips on coping with being a parent and keeping calm with your wee one so you can build a rewarding relationship together.

Gif of animated character getting frustrated

Gif of animated character getting frustrated