For the second time, Mamahood is lucky to get in touch with one of the successful mompreneurs, Lily Chew of Lil' But Mighty. This time, she talked about another 'must-have' in parents' concern list - which is about the rising number of Omicron infections. At the time of writing, The Straits Times reported that there were 1185 Omicron infections confirmed, more than double from the previous day. As a mother herself, Lily Chew shares the concern and safety measures taken by her tuition centre to ease the parents' worries. Let's read on to know how she tackles the situation as a mother and founder of the tuition centre. Years of building tuition centres, an empire of your own. How do you cope with COVID-19 latest variant, Omicron? Are parents still concerned about their children's progress as the school has many leaves? Lily Chew: We have been taking the COVID-19 situation and updates in our stride. I am thankful for the great team of teachers and staff who are ready to adapt to any changes required at the centre in order to ensure undisrupted learning for our students. Currently, we are coping by complying with the guidelines set out by the ministry to provide a safe learning environment for our students. This includes ensuring that SafeEntry is done, hands are sanitised, social distancing measures are observed and disinfection of the classrooms is carried out after every class. Image credit: Lily Chew Image Credit: Facebook @lilbutmighty Omicron is indeed worrying. We are keeping to the MOE advisory issued and we will continue to monitor the situation. Due to how volatile the situation is, it is true that children\u2019s learning may be disrupted or need to be shifted to home-based from school anytime. Therefore, it is natural for parents to be concerned about how their child\u2019s progress will be affected. However, I do think that parents are generally understanding of the situation. We have been through Home-Based Learning a few times by now and everyone has been adapting to the new norms and adjusting their expectations. We see parents becoming more hopeful about what is to come and although they are concerned about the virus, they also see how being nimble to adapt is necessary. Therefore, parents are ready to support their child with each transition in school and at the centre as all of us have the same goal of wanting to provide effective learning in a safe manner. Are all of your classes conducted online? If so, do the teachers need other materials in order to teach the students at the centres, let say for practical lessons? Lily Chew: We have classes that are fully online and also classes that are fully on-site. For classes that are fully online, our curriculum is consistent with that of the on-site classes. However, we understand that with a different mode of delivery, there may be different tools needed to ensure that the engagement of the activities and lesson remains. Lil' But Mighty team during one of their online lessons. (Image Credit: Facebook @lilbutmighty) Hence, the materials are the same for classes of the same level but our teachers may have different platforms to be used with our online students to elevate the class. Many kids are afraid to go to physical classes because of COVID-19. Parents are having a hard time convincing them. How do you combat this issue? How do you convince or help the parents to ensure that their child feels at ease to return to school and physical classes? Lily Chew: I think we can empathise with the children and what they may have heard about the virus can indeed be terrifying. Apart from the children, sometimes, parents are the ones who are concerned about the spread of the virus. As parents ourselves, we will definitely place my child\u2019s safety and health as a priority. I do not think that there is a right or wrong decision to be made as it is a personal choice that may involve many factors of consideration. Hence, we provide the option of fully online programmes which will provide the learners with the same curated content and strategies which the on-site classes offer. This helps parents and children who may feel more assured learning from home to make a decision without having to compromise on quality learning. For parents or children who are keen to return to the physical classroom but are uncertain, we share with them the options available and how we ensure a safe learning environment for them amidst the situation. If there are physical classes, how do you limit the students in each class? Do you have to prepare more classes in order to practice social distancing? Lily Chew: Even before the pandemic, the enrolment per class is capped at 6. Hence, we have been able to manage the number of students in each class and adhere to the advisory of having a distance of 1 metre between the stipulated group size at each point. For times when the measures did not allow for 6 students, we would offer hybrid classes (a mix of online and on-site students during the lesson) or go fully online instead. If so, do the teachers need to work overtime or would you hire more teachers to cope with the rising number of classes? Lily Chew: Since we would offer hybrid classes or go fully online and not increase the number of classes, we did not need to hire more teachers for that reason. Since there is a rising number of the new variant, Omicron, and the classes are online, how do you, as an organisation, help to keep the student-focused in class? Many teachers struggle with this since students at home will be distracted by their home surroundings. Lily Chew: Our on-site classes have not been shifted online because of Omicron yet but we are monitoring the situation. For the classes which are online, it is true that there are differences in how we can engage the students as there is a physical separation between the teacher and students after all. Communication with our students\u2019 parents has always been vital in setting up a child for success in the classroom. Hence, we will advise parents on selecting a suitable location for the lesson should the teacher feel that the child is not in a conducive part of the house. Additionally, it is compulsory for our students to switch on their cameras during class. On one hand, this allows our teachers to monitor the students. On the other hand, it also opens up possibilities for more engaging activities that may involve the pupils standing up to move around or to just have a good stretch. Having such activities placed strategically in the online classroom goes a long way. As parents yourself, how can you balance the online and offline classes? Do you create your own personal schedule? Lily Chew: I think I will start by discussing with my children and sharing the options with them. As they grow older and become more aware of the world, it is important to involve them in the decision-making process. Image credit: Lily Chew Their preference for the mode of learning should be taken into consideration and as their parents, we will also discuss with them our observations of how they seem to learn more effectively. I would be comfortable signing my child up for on-site classes as long as I know that the learning environment is a safe one and the operators are socially responsible. As to which course should be online and which should be on-site, it will very much depend on the subject or nature of the course. Currently, my eldest son only attends tuition at Lil\u2019 but Mighty and recently, he started attending Taekwondo classes with his younger brother at the school on Saturdays. How can parents check-in to see how their child is coping? Lily Chew: I think taking time to communicate with your child is important. It can be a routine that you have to read together before bedtime that can open up conversations. It can even happen on a ride home or when you are out running errands with your child. During the conversations, I think it is important for parents to be vulnerable with their children. There were times when I shared with my son about the difficulty which I was facing at work and how I felt quite down about it. It had ever led to my two older boys comforting me. Image credit: Lily Chew From there, when I asked them about how school was or if they were bothered, I could feel that they were honest with me. If your child is sharing, it is important to give him or her your undivided attention and also to listen without commenting first. I think bearing these in mind will help us to set up future opportunities to have honest conversations with our children. One more thing which I feel parents should do will be to do an activity with their child. Do something you both enjoy such as playing board games\/video games or grabbing an iced chocolate drink. Even if our child does not share how he or she is coping, spending time with them this way does help to lift their spirits and build the relationship. Ultimately, before someone is willing to pour his\/her heart out to you, both of you must have a relationship first. Lastly, check in with the teachers to know how the child is coping in school. This may not be academic and should be about their behaviour in school as well. Image credit: Lily Chew Too much screen time might be parents' worst fear for their children. How do you manage your own children\u2019s screen time? Lily Chew: For Lenard and me, we set boundaries on when the boys can use mobile devices and watch television programmes. This is communicated clearly with their grandparents who are very much involved in taking care of them as such consistency is definitely needed. For instance, the boys can only use mobile devices over the weekends and after their schoolwork is completed. As for television programmes, we are a little more relaxed and we do not set a time limit for the boys when it comes to this. However, we do try and engage them in other activities if they have watched a few episodes of Pokemon. It is also a rule that they need to ask for permission before they can watch television programmes or use mobile devices. Lastly, we also are mindful of the type of programmes which they can watch. If I can join them while watching the programmes or movies, I will gladly do so. The boys love that I am interested in what they are interested in and we also try and seize the teachable moments from the shows we watch to talk to the boys. The most recent movie we watched was Encanto and it definitely provided many meaningful takeaways which we discussed with the boys after.