Parents, including me, have been worried about the loss of learning during this pandemic. When they share their worries with me during sessions, I do often confess I am sailing in the same boat. While the worry isn’t entirely unwarranted, here is what I have been feeling and sharing in the sessions.
At this time, children's routine has gone for a toss—not stepping out of the house, not attending physical school and learning on laptops, thus rendering the “how much time onscreen is ok “ debate useless, snacking through the day and ducking out of home work and classes, watching videos or gaming during school (apologies if I have rubbed it in). But I have had a few observations and experiences, which I feel are quite valuable for us to keep in mind before we scream disaster.
Children do have a sense of parents going to work and coming back. During the pandemic they have had the opportunity to observe the goings on in their parents' work life, watching them work hard. Children have been exposed to conversations and demonstration about work ethics, time crunch, motivation and commitment, all this while at home. These are values we always hoped to instil in them through conversation and legacy.
They have watched families being present at home, navigating problems, difficult emotions and small to severe challenges together. Getting a view into this sort of functioning may have been premature but is certain to have taught some lessons.
I believe that a household and its runnings are an interesting mix of engineering, management, science, psychology and art. Children never saw how breakfast, lunch and dinner came to the table. How different people in the family helped (or not) fulfilling various roles and responsibilities. They hardly ever saw their mothers efficiently placing orders for grocery and fruit while sipping their tea and managing to find missing lego pieces as they walked over to their make shift office desk at home. Before the pandemic, they did not get to see their fathers in full force at work and home, being both heroes protecting our worlds yet being human enough to be vulnerable at times. To watch the people and machinery behind “the home” they came back to post school, in perfect shape and cosy silence, may have laid down a strong foundation for empathy for the “whats, who’s and how’s” of families and homes.
Children were compelled to learn new ways of learning. They figured out technology and broke preconceived schemas and barriers quicker than adults. They adapted to a new, distant and virtual world and made it home rather efficiently. They figured how to communicate and collaborate on virtual platforms being themselves, taking all of us by surprise.
I do believe that children have also had the opportunity to connect with their own feelings and those of their friends, for the simple reason that at some level they were all putting up with the same changes, precautions and restrictions.
One of the things I’m most optimistic about is the time they have spent with themselves. With or without a sibling, our children were used to a lot of company and activity. Be it school, classes, parties or playdates, our children were mostly occupied, busy or accompanied with fun and friends. Being by themselves, having to cope with boredom and taking responsibility to find occupation may just help our children turn inward and help them become less dependent on the outside for joys and fulfilment.
Learning is a dynamic process, highly dependent on and best achieved by exposure to new information and different experiences from what we are used to. While our children may not have been exposed to education the way hoped, they may have been exposed to a practicum of one of the most difficult and effective curriculums they will get to learn.
Shwetambara Sabharwal is a Mumbai based psychologist, psychotherapist and a mother of two