Can My Child Learn During Traumatic Times?

Can My Child Learn During Traumatic Times?

Emotions, Trauma, Change and Learning

In the course of a few weeks, due to the Coronavirus, our lives changed drastically. This time in our world holds more trauma and change than we have ever seen before. Our schools closed their doors and opened a virtual portal of education. Fear and frustration overtake many homes. Yet our children are supposed to keep learning. How do we do this? Parents are all asking the question…

First, let’s talk about how we learn. When new information comes into our senses, the first stop is a small part of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the limbic system that has a role in our emotions. When the amygdala is triggered by threats or unexpected events, the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system), responds to fight or flight, which short circuits learning.

Stress is also known to negatively affect learning. It takes us out of our normal rhythm of functioning. Educationally speaking, it impacts our frontal lobe, which houses executive functioning behaviors (decision making, planning, and organizing). Stress also impairs our working memory, (ability to hold information in your head). It doesn’t matter what you are trying to teach, when the amygdala triggers, the nervous system needs to calm down before learning can occur.

Many families are doing whatever they can to protect their children from the emotional aspect of this… however, it’s too big. It’s not a news story that children can be sheltered from. Our way of life has changed. Education has changed. It impacts HOW our children learn.

What can we do?

Parents, especially moms, set the emotional framework of the family. This is a time like never before for moms and dads to come to terms with their emotional state and seek peace. How can we find peace in a time like this? Only through God and his son, Jesus. In the midst of sickness, financial hardship, fear, and a loss of security, peace is hard to find. But it can be found.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

Maintaining structure helps children feel a sense of security. I’ve seen many people post sample schedules on Facebook of how they do things. The school district where I live posted sample schedules. Those suggestions help, but they do not solve your family structure needs. Your family needs to find their own rhythm and structure. It does not need to look like Karen’s, Sue’s or Sally’s. Do your thing. You do you.

Breathe. Relaxation, meditation, prayer, and breathing create mindfulness that calms the brainwaves into an alpha state. While trauma and stress lead to negative mindsets and brainwave patterns not conducive to emotional stability and readiness; breathing, purposeful relaxation, and a positive mindset produce an alpha or readiness state of mind. That readiness is helpful for learning. Above all, please let your children sleep! This is a time for sleeping in and allowing your children (teens especially) to rest. Rest and sleep help our bodies regenerate to keep our emotions in check but also to promote a healthy immune system.

Enjoy your time. In this thrown together time of togetherness, choose to be blessed. Enjoy your children. If they are stressed, it will come out in their behavior. Grace is the name of the game. Remember, the words you say in frustration cannot be taken back. This is a time for your children to feel comforted and treasured. Children need to feel safe and loved, not just in life, but in order for learning to occur.

How do we crisis school during the Coronavirus?

Just do the best you can. In this time of crisis schooling, parents are pulled in many different directions. The school district mandates what schooling needs to be done, teachers have on-line meetings required for work, supplemental work is given, and there are tons of free, online, fun activities to do. Parents are either working outside of the home – which has its own stresses, out of work, or working from home. Trying to balance school and work feels like two full-time jobs! The change in schooling is enough to throw some kids way off balance, not to mention adding in all the emotional implications mentioned above. There is NO WAY to get it all done. And that is OK! Prioritize. Do the most important first, get done what you can, and give yourself a break on the rest. Each day is a new day.

There is the real possibility some kids will not learn as much as in traditional schools, just as some kids might strive not to be in a traditional setting. What we can rest and rely on is the fact that curriculums review material. Since all schools across our country are moving to this format, there will hopefully be a plan next year to incorporate more review. Parents can rest that this is not going to be a setback. It is overcome-able.

 What about our special needs students?

Parents can apply the same accommodations and modifications the school has for their child’s IEP.  Make the assignments as hands-on as possible. Turn worksheets into real-life learning or Pinterest activities. Above all, keep your frustration in check. Remember, when your child struggles, they feel even more frustrated or defeated than you do. Praise them often!

Crisis schooling is not going to look like a traditional school setting. Don’t force it to be the same. Have an at-the-very-least schedule of the basics – Reading and math, and a rock-star schedule of all of the required activities as well as supplemental. Cooking and measurements can count as math. Reading a recipe or the cereal box can be a part of their reading for the day. Be creative and allow your child to do what they love. If they want to play video games all day, have them write a report on the history of video games or a game plan for the next level of their current favorite game. Our children need schooling right now to keep their minds focused and off the news or the situation we are facing. If you need to reach out, the team at Thinking and Learning Center is here for you. Contact us today!

For today, remember that kids are resilient. When a child has someone to talk to, they process and work through things and bounce back. Lead your family to focus on the positive and keep your eyes on Christ. Keep calm, and help your children stay calm to help them learn.

Above all, hang in there. We will get through this together –  while apart. 

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