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LETTER | Parenting during pandemic: Opportunities and challenges

LETTER | Covid-19 is a pandemic which has led to an unprecedented movement control order (MCO) as a mitigating measure to deal with the novel virus. No one loves to be homebound, but we have to, to save more lives. 

Parents may need some time to let the children adapt to the new norms of no playgrounds, no holidaying, no visiting grandparents in the village and no visiting malls. While small children can be content only by scampering around the house, parents have to multitask more, managing home and office work as well as taking care of their children. 

Parents have also been tasked to look after their children’s education. In other words, parents have become the primary teachers to their children, and for some parents, they need to also be specialised in all schools subjects.

It has been almost a year since schools are closed. Many schools have been initiating learning in a number of different formats. Parents have been updated with the information about their children’s schoolwork through social media such as classroom WhatsApp groups administrated by the class teacher. 

One of the programmes being conducted by schools is that of online learning. In my experience, there are many types of online learning tools used by the teachers. For example, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Telegram Voice chat, Youtube, online quizzes and others. 

Interactive quizzes are fun because children are offered learning activities that help them to be active learners.

Additionally, as gadgets are now ubiquitous in their daily life, they can connect the new experience with what they usually have in their daily lives. However, in Google Meet or Telegram voice chat, students can meet the teacher "in person". 

Individual or group learning takes place via the teachers explaining and discussing the lessons, or the children can carry out reading or other tasks set by the teacher. Such an experience makes the children feel like they are learning in the real classroom; being monitored closely by the teacher appears to make children more serious about their learning. 

As parents, we learn to get to grips with technology and upskilling our knowledge on ICT. We also learn to see technology as an educational tool rather than merely a tool to entertain.

Nonetheless, not all students can access the internet easily. Some homes cannot afford to have good internet connections due to location or costs. This could pose a problem because some task sheets on Google Classroom need to be printed out for the children to complete, or they need to be uploaded once the assessment is finished. 

Apart from that, on the one hand, parents with several children might need to take turns using the gadgets. On the other hand, parents with small children need someone to look after the other siblings while they focus on a particular child at a time. 

Strengthen parent-children relationships 

In my experience, another way of learning that my son’s school recently introduced was where the teacher prepared the homework in printed form, and the parents collected this from school, which seems to be an easier and more efficient method. Therefore, it is such a commendable effort by the teachers who have been working hard to ensure student learning takes place in the best way.

It is also a good time to reflect on our parenting skills and parental involvement in our children’s learning during this pandemic. Parent-children relationships can be strengthened more during this time. 

We can listen to the children’ stories, feelings and chatter more than before. We can spend more time addressing our children’s issues such as their misbehavior through interactions. We can probably do more activities together than before. 

It must be a challenge for parents who need to work from home and focus on their children at the same time. However, parents can strike the right balance between work and family by sharing parenting and household responsibilities.

It is not easy to remain patient and passionate with the children all the time, though. Teaching children to toe the line, managing arguing and fighting siblings, entertaining, coping with the pestering and whining, as well as dealing with the new role of "caterer" to the family. 

Taking on all of these responsibilities can be a big drain on our energy because we might experience a lack of proper breaks. This requires some knowledge on how to handle our emotions, handle the pressure, and remain calm and positive at many times. 

Besides, cooperation between spouses is also paramount in contributing to a healthy emotional parent, and perhaps more so now than ever before in these troubling times.

However, the pandemic could also teach us to become more conscious parents. The pandemic could also provide us with some time to self-evaluate our skills to become better parents for our lovely children. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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