Pandemic fatigue affects all of us. Students in particular, report feeling foggy, defeated, unmotivated, and bored. Add to this a lack of daily structure and a yearning for real social interactions. Unfortunately, these experiences cannot easily be altered as changing the current situation is outside of our control. However, there are some things that we can change which help to lower stress and lift moods:
- Establish daily routines – Research on this shows that stress is better managed when life is structured and routinized.
- Have a regular get-up time. Do not sleep in and lounge around in sleepwear on weekdays.
- Eat breakfast together.
- Start the day with a 15-30 min walk outside. Seeing things outside your four walls will help to prepare the brain for learning.
- Have a set learning time each day.
- Eat lunch together.
- Take a regular 1- hour downtime in the afternoon where children do quiet reading, drawing, or listening to audiobooks. No screen time during this downtime.
- Daily exercise and fresh air – Research shows that exercise and sunlight help to raise dopamine levels in the brain and so act as a natural mood lifter.
- Provide a consistent learning environment – Academic consistency gives the days and weeks structure as well as milestones to work towards. A sense of academic achievement is beneficial and provides students with a true sense of accomplishment.
- Reduce screen time – Ideally children should not spend more than one hour per day in front of a screen. Research shows that reducing screen time to around 1 hour, engaging in physical activity, and sleeping well helps children preform better in thinking, language, and memory tests. Being away from screens also increases children’s emotional and physical well-being. As parent, set yourself a rule to check news just once a day. Checking newsmedia especilally can add to stress.
With pre-school, elementary, and middle school students, daily reading practice is important:
- For younger children who cannot yet read independently, spend as much time reading aloud as possible. Order books from the libarary for pick-up rather than reading from a tablet.
- Listening to audiobooks can be a great alternative. Check out Librivox (free audio books): www.librivox.org or download them from your local library.
- Read books from Monday to Friday and watch the movie version on the weekend. Great book & movie combinations are:
- Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- A Bear Called Paddingtion by Michael Bond
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
- For middle grade/high school readers (grade 8 and up):
- The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte
Mensa Excellence in Reading Program provides wonderfully extensive reading lists students starting with kindergarten all the way to high school. The books can be read independently by the student, read aloud by the parent, or listened to as an audiobook. ( Also, when a student completes a reading list, they receive a certificate of achievement and t-shirt.) You can find the lists here:
Librivox (free audio books): www.librivox.org
Project Gutenberg free E-books: www.gutenberg.org/
Math & More
Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that allows learners to study at their own pace. Lessons include math, science, computing, history, art history, economics, and more, including K-14 and test preparation (SAT, Praxis, LSAT) content.
Diary Writing – Writing in a diary or journal may sound old-fashioned, but it assists in focusing on the specifics of the day, such as funny things that were said or happened, an interesting meal, or a new walking path. It also helps to process the day’s stresses: new research shows that expressive writing (writing about emotions or stressful experiences) boots health by freeing up cognitive resources for other mental activities, including our ability to cope more effectively with stress . In in addition to exercising writing skills, keeping a diary helps kids and teens to process out emotions and promotes well-being.
NaNoWriMo (stands for National Novel Writing Month) began in 1999 as a challenge to write 50’000 words of a novel in November. It has since become a non-profit organization that supports young writers with tools, resources, and community access. It supports 100s of thousands of writers around the world set goals and tackle projects.