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Parents learn lessons with kids home 24/7 [Copy link] 中文

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[url=]I reckon everyone in the family except me is a 'mythical creature'," said a 40-year-old mother of two, whose parents have lived with her during the height of the novel coronavirus outbreak.[/url]

In China, "mythical creature" is a term of endearment usually used to describe naughty toddlers or troublesome schoolchildren whose antics drive their parents crazy.

As schools and kindergartens nationwide postponed the spring semester for nearly four months in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, many children have spent long periods cooped up with their parents and even grandparents.

Women, who shoulder most of the responsibility for parenting and household planning, have felt under greater pressure during this challenging time.

Along with the economic impact of the epidemic, it poses challenges to family members' mental health and parenting strategies.

Dong Zhenglu, the mother who claimed she had been dealing with "mythical creatures", jokingly suggested that she needed psychological guidance to resolve the madness.

"I have my work, my children and my parents to deal with," she said.

Her younger daughter is in the first year of primary school. She had just become accustomed to the new environment when the coronavirus outbreak struck.

To ensure the 6-year-old will not fall behind when school resumes, Dong has mugged up some basic knowledge and teaching methods to coach the child.

"I became either desperate or crazy when coaching my kid with her Chinese homework. I have been preparing teaching materials about monetary units, which is part of the math curriculum for the next semester," she said.

On a handwritten teaching plan titled "Counting CNY" ("Counting Chinese yuan"), Dong listed several sums using different units, such as the yuan and its smaller denomination, the jiao.

Dong, who left primary school nearly 30 years ago, said she has given her daughter some primer lessons ahead of school resuming.

She is less patient than qualified teachers and often feels frustrated when the girl is not in the mood to learn and is so distracted that she hardly absorbs any new knowledge.

On the night of April 14, the day before Beijing released online courses for all primary school students, Dong and other family members held a meeting to discuss how to arrange the schoolwork, including extracurricular online classes.

She was especially keen to do so as her children are very young, with one in the first grade and the other in the fourth.

Sometimes Dong has disagreements with her mother, a former primary school principal.

"As a teacher herself, she interferes a lot in my older daughter's studies," she said.

She added that though she appreciates the efforts to ease the burden, she doesn't agree with some of the traditional disciplinary methods her mother used on her and has tried to impose on her daughter, such as setting a tight schedule, irrespective of whether it is a weekday or the weekend.

A complicating factor for Dong is that the coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc with her career.

As a stage director, mostly of fashion shows, and co-owner of a workshop, she has endured a serious loss of income due to the cancellation of all planned events in the first half of the year.

"Cultural activities have been frozen to prevent large gatherings. That has also frozen my career, and I can't stop worrying about the consequences while I'm keeping an eye on my daughter," she said.

Resuming work

Some women are wary of having no work and no income, while other remote-working mothers are itching to separate their family and business lives while quarantined at home with their children.

Li Yu works in the sales department of a technology company headquartered in Beijing. When the government began relaxing restrictions on movement, the 32-year-old resumed visits to clients and sometimes went to the office to handle business.

"My work time is flexible, with no need to clock in and out, but having a child at home all day can make a working woman in any position fall apart," Li said.

Her 6-year-old daughter developed some learning habits in the first months of primary school after September, but the extra long winter vacation has almost dragged her behavior back to the preschool level, according to Li.

The school's regular online classes only account for one hour a day, so Li has to act as an extracurricular tutor because her daughter's nonschool activities have also moved into cyberspace.

The girl now practices calligraphy and piano online under Li's supervision. The mother's "homework" is to download her daughter's weekly homework, such as a piece of music to be studied and played.

"The most annoying part is the piano class. Neither her father nor I have even a basic knowledge of the instrument, but I have to urge my daughter to review the pieces. Also, she was reluctant to obey my instructions because her piano teacher hadn't said anything, so why would we ask her to play?" she said.

Li said that her daughter is a loving girl who can spend an entire afternoon quietly reading books without bothering her. But reading doesn't meet all the family's requirements for the girl. "Our expectations are infinite, while our energy is limited," she said.

One Friday evening, Li had a video meeting with the school principal and other parents to summarize their children's study over the week.

At 9 pm, the principal called a halt to proceedings as it was getting late. Li was pleased that the meeting had ended, but was not prepared for what came next.

"Actually, it was not over. The head teacher closed the meeting given that it was so late, but the next day we had another meeting to discuss arrangements for the following week," she said.




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Stronger relationships

As the mother of two preschoolers, 36-year-old Shan Xiaoyu has lived through a relatively peaceful time at home in Beijing. Before the outbreak, her two sons, ages 4 and 1, were mainly raised by their grandparents.

During the quarantine period, Shan and her husband have strengthened their relationships with the children.

"We became more intimate by spending plenty of time together. My husband, in particular, made great progress in his parenting skills," Shan said.

In March, there was a one-week gap between her parents returning to their hometown and her parents-in-law arriving, so Shan and her husband had to act as full-time parents. "Our goal was really simple-to make sure we all stayed alive!" she said with a laugh.

The day after her parents left, the extra workload saw Shan order a delivery of French fries for her sons' dinner.

"That week, my own life began at 11 pm every day," she said.

Although Shan and her husband were exhausted, they were proud to witness how the boys developed.

"My younger son learned to walk in shoes-a big achievement for him-while his older brother can now do 15 situps, from zero before," she said.

That time at home was the longest period that Shan had lived with her parents since high school.

"The time when three generations lived under one roof unleashed some woes about the way our parents nurtured us and the fact that we have unconsciously copied their methods to educate our children," she said.

"For instance, I shouted at my older son for misbehaving and suddenly realized that my mom used to scold me in exactly the same way when I was a kid. At that moment, I decided I had to show more love."

Like most grandparents, Shan's parents-in-law often spoil the children in small ways, such as giving them snacks or even extra meals.

"I finally learned why my husband likes snacks so much," she joked.

Conflict among the four adults and two boys could erupt at any time, but Shan said that while they argued about issues they never fought.

"Only when you raise a child do you understand your own parents' efforts and love. We have deepened our mutual understanding in the process," she said.

"The epidemic opened a door for me to closely and continuously observe the family environment built by me and my husband, which made me reflect on the conditions I provide for my children and make up for the flaws."

She said the reason her family can live relatively peacefully under one roof is that her sons haven't gone to school yet. "Just imagining helping my kids with online classes was painful," she said.

Thirty-one provinces have now confirmed dates for the start of the new semester. The resumption will be staggered nationwide, but many children in Beijing will begin returning to their classrooms from the start of next month.

The development will relieve some mothers of school-age children of the strain of looking after the "mythical creatures" every day.

But many parents have mixed feelings about the resumption of class-based teaching.

"On the one hand, we are concerned about the potential risk of the kids becoming infected with the virus at school," Li, the saleswoman, said.

"On the other, we really need a break from our round-the-clock parenting routine."


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