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Watch Nathan Wallis’ video on surviving lockdown

Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis has three ‘R’ words to help parents and children get through the rest of lockdown – and they’re not reading, writing and arithmetic. By KATE BARBER

We may have been through it before, but lockdown doesn’t necessarily get any easier with practice. After the novelty of the first week or so wears off, the challenges of balancing children, home learning, work and anything else going on in your life can become all too apparent.

Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis has some valuable tips to help us make it through – and it all starts with Routine.

Hopefully, over the past fortnight, the days have started to take some sort of regular shape for your family, with the same activities happening around the same time: an online hang-out with classmates in the morning, brunch with the family mid-morning, a walk in the afternoon, a movie in the evening, a regular(ish) bedtime. Of course, Level three may alter the shape of this routine for many.

“Having a flexible routine like this gives children a sense of structure and purpose,” says Nathan. He adds, “It doesn’t need to be strict. The ‘rhythms’ children live by help calm the brain stem and make children feel safe and secure. A daily walk or bike ride, regardless of the weather, certainly offers a sense of achievement on completion. A hot milo afterwards becomes more than just a yummy drink – it’s part of a lockdown ritual.”

Locked down in our little bubbles can feel purposeless, boring, isolating, claustrophobic and demotivating. Our kids are experiencing all these feelings too.

With this in mind, Nathan says it’s important kids have some Responsibilities – our second important ‘R’ word. But that doesn’t just mean loading them up with a long list of chores.

Our kids are also craving some sense of freedom and independence – amid restrictions that seem to stifle such aspirations. So, as well as the more mundane expectations, like keeping their rooms tidy, putting away their washing, doing their maths homework, such responsibilities could involve looking after the dog or making dinner for the family. Responsibilities where they feel entrusted and empowered will give them a greater sense of purpose and self-worth.

Finally, Nathan stresses the need to Relax. It’s a paradoxical imperative, and not the easiest given the circumstances. Nathan implores parents to remember, “Our kids lead a hurried life. Lockdown is an opportunity to push the pause button and spend time together. Our children need downtime to feel calm and secure, as do we. And here we have an opportunity for plenty of downtime if we can shake off the idea that relaxing isn’t important, a waste of time even.”

But where does children’s learning fit into all of this? At the start of our first lockdown, Nathan assured parents, “There is no academic emergency. We shouldn’t be preoccupying ourselves with our children’s progress, or feared lack of progress, with their schoolwork.” The same message he shared with us last year holds true: “We have this golden opportunity to slow down and relax, and focus on being with our children.”

Our teachers are doing a great job checking in with children and whānau during this time. The online hangouts provide kids with a chance to see their classmates, and the learning tasks give children a sense of purpose and agency.

But, as Nathan says, we don’t need to add pressure. Our kids will be fine – if we can build some sort of Routine into their days, give them some Responsibility, and change our mindset so that Relaxing is something to be strived for and valued. Let the three ‘Rs’ help see you and your family through the rest of this lockdown.

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