Navigating Covid, School and Schedules

A new year has begun with hopes and expectations and more Covid restrictions. What a concrete reminder that the Covid-related unpredictability of 2020 continues into 2021. Many of our children celebrate the extended holiday but others are agitated that school and friends are still not accessible. As parents try to navigate childcare, job-seeking or meeting work requirements, with increased economic stress, this can all feel overwhelming!   

Navigating Covid and school is different for every family, depending on your circumstances. For families where education and schooling are facilitated through classroom interactions, we face the challenge of needing to set up structure and boundaries so that our children can continue to learn while being safe. For families where schools are alternating or exclusively using online systems, considerations need to be made regarding data and device accessibility. If we are in a better resourced space, how do we support and recognize that our children, by default, get given a head start whilst at the same time hold the tension of what it means for other children whose teachers are needing to navigate 50 or more learners in a grade, amid the Covid disruptions?  The space of wanting to see our own child thrive and grow as well as my neighbour’s child means that an increased understanding of the challenges facing us all can lead us to action. And through all of this we need to recognize as parents and caregivers that while we can’t predict what will happen next, we can create stability and structure for our children, no matter the circumstances. 

But just how do we begin to put stability and structure in place when everything feels so off kilter?  First things first, let’s start in our own homes.  Make sure that we are implementing appropriate Covid protocols and making sure that sanitizing, washing hands and masking up  become part of our daily routines.  Regardless of whether we are in classrooms or buying bread, these routines matter and help our children know what to expect when do they do eventually return to the classroom.  Routines provide a set of expectations and diminish anxiety. 

Children learn through play, but need healthy boundaries and to know what is expected in order to thrive.  And when we provide routines for our children, it benefits them but it also helps us plan our days.  Additionally, routines which include free, unstructured play matter – it’s in this time that our children decompress, process their anxiety and can regulate, or manage their emotions – like we do in our own down time!

Routines don’t need to be complicated, but they do need to be age appropriate. An example of a daily schedule aimed at preschoolers is given below.  This schedule provides time for fine motor skills (using our hands to pinch, draw or write), gross motor skills (movement that does not involve sitting), literacy (reading) and numeracy (math).  This can be adapted for older children, as needed, and allows you to craft a routine that will work for your family.  Think about setting up a routine or schedule to your day at home, what are the regular rhythms or needs of your family?  When will you do school-work, or play, or go outside?  When is snack time, or nap time or screen time?

It is easy to feel at the whim of Covid and the limits it imposes on us. Covid continues to reveal the inequalities within our cities and communities. It also provides an opportunity for us to advocate for children, not just our own, and support them to grow in the midst of the messiness.  It provides opportunities to learn more and empathize with the different challenges facing families in our world. What does this practically look like for the children in your immediate world?  Is there a way to partner with the caregivers of families around you to see ALL children thrive?  Perhaps this is the the housekeeper or janitor in your office, the domestic worker or gardener in your home. What would partnering with them look like to support their children?  It might be assisting with the uniform or stationary outlay for the year, or if their children are younger, offering basic fine motor activities which they can facilitate in their homes too. 

Sharing ideas and schedules as well as asking about practical needs are just some of the ways we can choose proactive responses to hold our children, to support each other and respond to the needs in the world around us. We can grow in relationships with compassion and dignity as we listen, learn and grow together in response to Covid and schools and the responses we choose.  Perhaps this is the silver lining in the current topsy turvy world.

Written by the Arise Team. Arise is an NGO based in Heideveld on the Cape Flats. We believe that every child is created to be part of a loving, secure, thriving family. To support us in our work, visit