Flint Township View

Creating structure during an unstructured time

The VIEW from here



As we wrap up our sixth week away from school, families in Michigan are feeling the strain. Some parents are home, wishing they could be working to support their families. Others are working remotely, mired in guilt over not spending more time with their children. Then, there’s the constant tension of knowing that you’re supposed to be supporting your kids’ education in a way that you’re not an expert—I know we’ve been feeling that in Johnston household.

Thankfully, some of that will be addressed by Gov. Whitmer’s executive order that suspended face-to-face learning for the remainder of the school year. School districts have been tasked with providing remote learning opportunities and many have already started to implement their plans. This applies to some afterschool programs, too. At YouthQuest, we’re starting to provide virtual learning opportunities for our students and families, in addition to making weekly calls and check-ins.

In the meantime, parents can help their students make the most of this unexpected out-of-school time by creating a general schedule to follow. Not only does this promote time management skills and stability, research shows that families who maintain flexible routines experience less stress and more manageable behavior. Routines offer predictability, which can be especially impactful during such uncertain times.

To build your own family schedule, bring your kids into the conversation.

Ask what they should accomplish each day and how they want to go about doing that. There are the basics like getting ready for the day, eating meals and meeting the learning expectations set by your child’s school. Then, there are things like chores, creative play and free time.

To prevent hearing “I’m bored!” throughout the week, you might brainstorm some examples of how they spend their extra time, such as going for a walk, building a cardboard fort or checking out the virtual tours of Applewood at ruthmottfoundation.org.

You can get ideas for science activities from videos created by Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium at sloanlongway.org/dailydose. Additionally, the Crim Mindfulness Team offers a variety of mindfulness video practices for youth and adults at crim.org/mindfulness, and YouthQuest will soon provide learning and enrichment opportunities via video at yquest.org.

Once you’re done, have your kids help you design a visual outline of your schedule—something that you can stick to the refrigerator and will hold you accountable throughout the day. That said, your routine doesn’t have to be so structured that it’s set in stone. It should be flexible and adapt to the needs of your family, which will likely evolve over the coming weeks and months.

At a time when so much feels out of our control, a schedule can go a long way in providing some semblance of normalcy. That doesn’t just help your kids. It benefits the whole family.

Kristina Johnston is the COO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.