Photo / Stephen Parker 240320sp11.JPG
Kerri Anne Hancock with her children Maraea, 6, Te Waere, 1, and Justin Hancock, 4 self-isolating at home. Photo / Supplied 240320kmsupbop1.jpg
By Kristin macfarlane and Esme O'Rafferty
As New Zealand goes into full lockdown today, parents and caregivers will have their own employment stresses to juggle with ensuring children remain stimulated and in good health in a confusing time.
Yesterday, schools were open only to children of 'essential service' workers. That ends today as the Coronavirus alert level moves to level 4 at 11.59pm, forcing a nationwide lockdown for at least four weeks. School holidays have been brought forward, from March 30 to April 14, to fall within the timeframe.
While families get used to their new reality, school staff encouraged families to keep children engaged with school work - but not too much to stress everyone involved.
A Tauranga mother, who wanted to known as Sarah, said the initial thought of working from home and ensuring her three children were mentally stimulated was stressful.
She soon realised that learning at home, for her family, didn't need to be school work every day.
She has signed her children up to educational websites, mixing their online learning with art, board games, te reo Māori, baking and organisational learning through chores at home. They'll also get a decent amount of environmental education, with vegetable seedlings and fruit trees to plant in coming weeks.
As Rotoiti 15 Trust's general manager Rotorua's Kerri Anne Hancock still had work to do during the lockdown but planned to enjoy the time at home with her children - Maraea, 6, Justin, 5 and Te Waere, 1.
"At the moment I'm still coming to terms with what this looks like for us," Hancock said.
Her eldest had been given some school work but beyond that, they'll speak te reo at home, spend time in nature and learn through communication and life.
Having happy children at this time was her focus, and encouraged parents not to put too much stress on themselves.
"Be kind to ourselves and to each other," Hancock said.
At Rotorua Intermediate yesterday principal Garry de Thierry said 10 of their 700 students attended. The school would open today for parents needing clarification on activities.
About 40 per cent of their students didn't have internet at home, which meant the school would also provide activity packs.
He encouraged parents to keep their kids engaged with school work as four weeks was "a very long time" to be in isolation. While some seemed "okay" with the idea of no school, he was unsure they fully understood the concept of home isolation.
"These holidays aren't like any other holidays," he said.
Ngākuru Primary School principal Gareth Cunliffe said staff met about a week ago and implemented a plan for online learning.
None of their 56 students were at school yesterday and Cunliffe said he wanted to be "clear and concise" for parents, while protecting students' and parents' mental health.
"Just enough, so we don't stress out the parents ... it's not 'school at home', it's just supporting their learning."
Mount Maunganui Intermediate principal Lisa Morrissey said the school was prepared for today's lockdown, with her "incredible" staff advanced in their thinking of ways to introduce online learning.
Of their 749-student roll, three attended yesterday .
The school's learning packs for the next four weeks would cover reading, writing, mathematics, physical education and te reo Māori, Morrissey said.
Routine is important for children through uncertain times
Tauranga's Family Matters psychotherapist Joanne Bruce said giving children facts and making things visual were key to getting through the lockdown.
Bruce, who provides a psychological service for children, teenagers and their families, said it was vital "the rules of the lockdown are made important", and expectations were known.
"Make sure they know they can go out and play, just not with other kids."
Bruce encouraged sharing developmentally appropriate information, while also giving children a beginning and end they can see such as a calendar, showing them "it's not forever".
"You should give them the facts about what we know and don't know in a very simple way, that a lot of people are getting sick and we are trying to stop it.
Planning and routine would also help, from "chores in the morning, play after lunch, TV between 3-4pm", she said.
"Just some kind of schedule and the kids can be included in making that."
"Make a plan and get the kids involved and taking responsibility. It might be that they have to do some jobs around the house before they get into games or puzzles.
Parents should also pay attention to their children's behaviour during this time.
"Take note of usual things like changes in behaviour, their eating, toileting or sleeping. You want to talk to them but not give it too much air time. You want to reassure but not give an overabundance of attention to the anxiety, just let them know you're there. Sometimes if anxiety gets a lot of attention it grows," Bruce said.
- By David Beck