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2020 began on a pleasant note for most of us. Businesses were blooming, individuals were enjoying their ordinary routines, kids and young adults were rejoicing in their school and college life. There was ordinarily a considerable distinction between typical workdays and weekends. People kept the weekends for doing household chores and recreational activities. Some impromptu and some meticulously planned travel itineraries were created. Some of us appreciated the populous places, and others gain more solace in personal settings. Life, as we know, has invariably been like this since we can recollect.

Coronavirus Pandemic

In the first quarter of 2020, our lives took a turn, that none of us had envisioned, even in our most out of this world fantasy. Every one of those zombie films, I jumped nimbly at the chance to see, indicated this other realm, where the perfectly normal life would be turned upside down as the world was not prepared for a catastrophe of such magnitude. I heartily enjoyed those entertaining movies, secretly protected in the assumption that it would never happen in reality.

By the end of March, most of the countries went into lockdown. Educational institutes and offices closed, individuals became jobless, stock markets crashed, the aviation industry grounded, and people started lining up in the local hospitals with acute respiratory symptoms, which would soon be diagnosed as COVID 19. None of us had imagined the year 2020, which was celebrated as the year with 20/20 vision, would present us with a disaster, which in our hindsight, we could have control it better.

The Size of Coronavirus Lockdowns in April 2020

lockdown
Source: Statista Apr 23, 2020

Everything was on lockdown for an incredibly prolonged time. Gradually the things started opening again, including the educational institutions and the workplaces. Most of the school boards provided the option to the guardians to choose between virtual learning/web-based learning or in school learning. The parents were scared and undecided because no one knew what complexity it would add to the already uncertain situation, once the schools were reopened. The students, some of them as young as five, can not be expected to follow the ever-evolving instructions provided by the health authorities, including wearing the mask all the time in public settings.

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Nearly half of students at public elementary schools in a COVID-19 hot spot west of Toronto are learning online, according to data provided by the school board. It was an extraordinarily difficult decision to execute for parents.

COVID-19 and online / web-based learning

  • Exposure to Coronavirus: There is a lot of uncertainty and fear around COVID 19. Till the vaccination arrives, parents wouldn’t want to put their kids in harm’s way.
  • Cold and flu season: COVID 19 symptoms are similar to cold and flu. Thus every time a kid is down with fever or has a runny nose, parents of other students will be hanging in uncertainty.
  • Lack of infrastructure: There is a greater chance for children to get infected if they frequently confined to a classroom with less ventilation. Most of the schools weren’t designed to accommodate the pandemic physical distancing restrictions.
  • Increased restrictions: There are massive chances of the countries going back to lockdown if the situation gets out of control. Transitioning from in school learning to online learning might be very challenging then.
  • Home-based learning: For some students, home-based learning is more effective, which might have become more evident with them trying it for the first time due to physical distancing instructions.
  • Loss of income/ expensive daycare: Millions of people lost their livelihood when the pandemic struck. Many of them are still out of work even after removing some of the restrictions. Thus daycare and private schools can be expensive.
  • Flexible Learning Schedule:  Online schooling does give more flexibility in terms of schedule. 
  • Closer Family Relationships: For some, the ‘stay at home’ orders did come with a positive side in terms of strengthening family relationships. Thus some families may want to continue that way.

COVID-19 and traditional school based learning

  • Sedentary lifestyle: All the ongoing restrictions results in a sedentary lifestyle. It is incredibly challenging for families living in apartments or cramped houses to give kids a chance to follow an active lifestyle.
  • Mental health: The mental health of the students also takes a hit due to the ongoing uncertainty and anxiety There was no social contact with people outside their homes which can be very challenging in growing years.
  • Screen time: The students are practically glued to the mobile, computer or television screens all day. Screen time has increased exponentially.
  • Lack of physical activity: Four in five 11- to 17-year-olds around the world are not taking enough physical exercise, according to a study before the pandemic. The current restrictions have only made it worse.
  • Lost social opportunities: Meeting in person is an essential part of learning social communication skills for the kids. Forming such connections are even more valuable for the first time schoolers or students who moved to a new school.
  • Technology access: Not everyone has access to fast internet, computers or technological know-how. Thus it becomes necessary for the families to send their kids to school to avoid any lag in learning. 

Whatever choice the parents make the ongoing anxiety and fear is still there. This post covers a few resources that the parents and the kids both can use at the unusual times of navigating through the COVID-19 school year.

COVID-19 resources for families

TitleSource
A Parent’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Mathhttp://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/parent_guide_math_en.pdf
Children reporting bullyinghttps://www.ontario.ca/page/bullying-we-can-all-help-stop-it#section-3
Children reporting bullyinghttps://www.ontario.ca/page/bullying-we-can-all-help-stop-it#section-5
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontariohttp://www.cheo.on.ca/
Children’s Mental Health OntarioChildren’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
COVID-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hubhttps://jack.org/Resources/COVID-19-Youth-Mental-Health-Resource-Hub?lang=en-ca
Curriculum and Resources sitehttps://www.dcp.edu.gov.on.ca/en/
How to support your child’s mental health during COVID-19 and the return to schoolhttps://smho-smso.ca/covid-19/parents-and-families/
Interactive data visualizations of COVID-19https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/visual-data-gallery/
Kids Help Phonehttp://www.kidshelpphone.ca/
LGBTQI2S Mental Health Tips during the COVID-19 Pandemichttps://egale.ca/awareness/lgbtqi2s-mental-health-tips-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
Mental Health Helplinehttp://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/
Mindyourmindhttp://mindyourmind.ca/
Safe Schools: Cyberbullyinghttp://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/respect.html

Web sites dedicated to family mental health

TitleContact
Good2Talkhttp://www.good2talk.ca/
Mental Health Helplinehttp://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/
Ontario Distress Centershttp://www.dcontario.org/

Help to lower the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of everyone in your community. Though at this time, it may seem like there is no light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel, with all the scientists working so hard to find a cure, we must keep our faith alive. Till that time, we all have to learn to embrace this new normal.