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How parents can turn Michigan schools closing into positive experience

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closes school buildings for rest of academic year

DETROIT – Michigan families have a lot to process Thursday after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed school buildings for the rest of the year.

READ: Michigan K-12 schools closed for rest of school year -- what we know

It’s difficult news for children and parents. Even though this creates a tricky situation, experts believe parents can turn it into a positive experience.

“It’s really important to be honest with our children and let them know something is going on in the world that is requiring us to be a team together,” clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell said.

With students officially learning from home for the rest of the school year, Rockwell said it’s more important to bring joy to the home classroom than it is to get everything perfect.

“It’s not the time to be a perfect teacher,” Rockwell said. “It’s time to be a good enough teacher. Do your lesson planning. Do the best you can, but the children need to see you as a parent-teacher be confident and not be anxious or worried about whether you’re doing a good job or not. That could really backfire.”

Children thrive on structure, so create a schedule with them and keep to it. Have a designated spot in your home for school.

UPDATE -- April 2, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 10,791; Death toll now at 417

“So they know where they can play, and when they sit in this particular spot -- this is where school is and this is where I need to get serious and focus,” Rockwell said.

Address the emotional and metal effect on children not being able to see their friends. Give them time to socialize with virtual play dates.

It’s OK to be vulnerable, Rockwell said. Let children know you will get through it together. Be honest with them, but don’t overshare. Only tell them wheat they want to know and talk about what it means for your family.

“Something all children can benefit from is understanding that we live within the context of history,” Rockwell said. “Things have happened from the beginning of time until now -- world wars, famines, other times we’ve had to pull together and be strong. If we can figure out a why, then we can figure out a how, but with, ‘How can we be the greatest team, family?’ That can really benefit children in the context of emotional development.”

For families with two working parents, try to become teammates to get everything done.

“Of course we’re going to worry that our children are going to fall behind, and we’re going to have a lot concerns and worries that come into our mind,” Rockwell said. “But I think it’s important to put that worry aside and come back to now and the present moment. ‘What do I have to do to help Johnny learn his times tables right now?’ Really stay focused on the hre and now, and that will help us get through until the end of the year.”

Rockwell stressed that while it’s important to make sure children are practicing good hand washing and other behaviors to stay physically healthy, parents also need to focus on their children’s emotional well-being.


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