How much structure do families need when students are stuck at home?

Children learning and communicating from laptops in their living room, home from school.
Children learning and communicating from laptops in their living room, home from school.(WVLT)
Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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Don't let kids stay up too far past their normal bedtime. Do let them play a lot. Even indulge them in a little extra screen time. These are the bits of advice that child and family experts shared with WVLT when asked how much structure families need when students are stuck home from school for several days.

Counselor Courtney Brandon says some kind of home routine can help children feel secure. "That idea that they can count on things. That they know that things are going to happen." Brandon said basics like bedtime and meal times need to stay predictable. "Going to bed at a certain time. Getting up at the same time every day. Eating breakfast, lunch and snack at time that they're used to are all really important.'

With the prospect of extended days at home after Spring Break for East Tennessee students because of Coronavirus concerns in the community, Brandon said parents will need to keep routines for children, but not overly strict ones. "The routine doesn't have to be super structured. You don't have to have your whole day planned out."

The Assistant Director of

Elizabeth Demartino Newton, said she also thinks structure is good, but schedules should not be too stringent at home. "I've been building schedules for my 10-year-old that have like a block of x-box time in the morning and then a block of chore time. And he's got a list of options that he can pick which chores to do. Building in some structure that also includes some choice for the child is also really effective.'

Demartino Newton said while parents will have to direct some homework and/or educational time for activities like reading, letting children play is still time that builds their young brains. 'They don't have to be getting academic instruction in order to be really learning and developing." She said games, puzzles and other things that interest children can still be times for learning, along with pitching in for household chores.

Brandon said time outdoors can be a healthy part of the routine. Both experts said a reasonable amount of screen time is okay, especially if it becomes a way to connect with friends and loved ones during a period of social distancing.

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