Picture this – the baby is fussy, the dog is wound up and the neighbor is mowing the lawn. Now imagine that you are 14 years old, trying to wrap your head around an algebra equation being reviewed in your remote classroom as all of that is stirring outside your bedroom door. Or, imagine that you are a 6-year-old who is trying to navigate the virtual learning on your own before acquiring reading skills when a grownup is not available to help. While institutions and educators are doing their best to adapt to current circumstances and provide streamlined virtual programs, today’s online learning environment is far from perfect. Families are similarly adjusting to a new “normal” as parents balance working from home while assisting children with virtual schools. Although many students may express that their new educational norm is highly stressful, there are numerous ways that you can help students cope, whether you are a parent or teacher. Blue KC explores five tried and true methods below:
1. Ensure the Proper Technology and Tools are Available
Do your students have everything they need to fully participate in virtual learning? A functioning laptop with adequate storage is vital, and often times, headphones are helpful to keep students more engaged during lessons, as they assist in blocking out background noise. In advance of upcoming class activities, make sure the proper software and apps are downloaded and ready for use, and if printable worksheets are required (or preferred by your child), work to make a printer accessible, whether it’s in the house or in a nearby store or library. Many school districts make laptops or tablets available for families who are not able to provide individual devices for each child in the home.
Additionally, desk and computer organization is key. Help your kids sort their email inboxes into appropriate folders so items are easily located and allow them to prepare for big exams or projects due dates ahead of time with calendar reminders. If they’re more tactile learners, prepare them with folders or binders labeled for their different classes and ensure that plenty of paper and writing utensils are on hand to work through assignments efficiently. Whenever possible, create a dedicated learning space free of toys, electronic games and other devices to help guard against tempting distractions not tied to their learning plan.
2. Encourage a Routine
Having a home that doubles as a classroom has its pros and cons. But, believe it or not, working in your pajamas may not be as great of an idea as it seems. Keeping a normal routine can work wonders for mental health. Dr. Pamela Cantor explains, “our brains are prediction machines that like order, and when our environments are orderly, the brain is calmer.” Families should work together to create weekly schedules that keep mealtimes regular, academic and leisurely activities balanced and bedtimes encouraged. Ensure your children are getting adequate sleep, eating well and that you, as a parent, are modeling the importance of self-care.
3. Establish “Office Hours”
All too often, students shy away from raising their hand to ask a question, for fear of embarrassing themselves in front of their classmates. But with today’s online learning structure, they don’t have the luxury of staying after class to seek clarification on a lesson. Wherever possible, teachers should make sure that they establish daily or weekly office hours where their pupils can reach out for extra assistance, either by phone, email or video chat, to make the experience as personalized as possible. Giving students this opportunity will provide them with more control, allowing them the chance to inquire about something they didn’t fully understand, receive valuable feedback and get a better grasp on their work, without putting them on the spot in front of their peers.
4. Allow for Breaks
Help your child find balance in their school day by encouraging breaks – both mental and physical. Studying for long periods of time can be draining. In a recent study, researchers found that frequent breaks improved focus, reduced stress, and boosted overall productivity in children. Invite your child to join you for a snack, call a friend or enjoy their hobby in between school tasks.
Additionally, exercise is a proven way to lower stress levels. Stepping away from the desk chair and computer screen every so often is crucial. Make sure that movement is a part of the daily routine, whether it be accomplished by a bike ride, walk around the block or family baseball game in the yard or local park.
5. When to Consider Professional Help
Among many other factors, stress remains one of the most prevalent barriers to academic success. During these uncertain times, an increasing number of students have reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Social isolation can lead to feelings of extreme loneliness and consequently higher rates of depression, particularly in adolescents. In some cases, it may take more than a structured routine and organized computer desktop to help your children manage their stress. If so, consider setting up a session with a school counselor or behavioral therapist, who can lend a listening ear and specialized advice to the child who needs it.
If you believe your child or student could benefit from speaking with professional, Mindful by Blue KC can help. Call (833) 302-MIND (6463) to speak with a Mindful Advocate who will match you with the appropriate expert based on your child’s individual needs.