There are so many challenges of remote learning and helping kids cope with all that’s going on in the world, so much so that parents can feel lost when trying to help. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many students have switched to online learning, a hybrid learning situation or a very different experience for in-person instruction. All of which means a lack of connection to teachers and peers, which is vital for learning at all ages and key to raising resilient learners.
Academics can suffer, social ties can fade, and a sense of self can weaken while stuck in the technology bubble. How can we make sure our kids come out of this resilient learners? Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, a psychologist in Princeton and author of Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem says now, more than ever, its vital parents maintain a positive attitude. “Kids pick up on our attitudes toward remote learning,” she says. “If we’re complaining about how awful it is, they’ll have no incentive.”
Kennedy-Moore suggests reframing our own experience of the situation to see it reflected back in our kids. “If we say, ‘I’m so grateful for your teacher and all she’s doing now,’ that models a more receptive attitude,” she says.
Give Them Some Control
As much as it might seem like we need to hover over our kids to make sure they’re doing their work, Kennedy-Moore says giving them some autonomy will result in more resilience. “For example, ask the child, do you want to do math first or social studies? Give two choices where either option is okay,” she says. This gives the child a sense of some control during a time where the rules seem to be re-written every day. “Remember, this is not normal for any of us. Our kids are not going to be showing peak performance, so have a little flexibility,” says Kennedy-Moore.
Set a Routine
“There is so much value in setting some sort of a routine,” says Karen Bonanno, a seventh grade English teacher with KIPP Lanning Square Middle in Newark. “Set alarms and reminders, check things off of lists and separate your work and free time—both mentally and physically,” she suggests. “For some older students, adding a healthy night’s sleep to this routine has been difficult. My suggestion is to try adjusting their sleep schedule by half an hour each night until they’re closer to sleeping at night.”
Take the Long View
Although it might seem like kids are struggling in the moment, Kennedy-Moore suggests parents take a long-haul view and focus in on keeping kids excited about learning. This may be more important than ticking off every online assignment. “Try to keep kids’ curiosity alive by offering activities beyond schoolwork,” she says. “What’s really important in the long run is kids have a positive attitude.”
My son and I started doing the activities in the Little Passports subscription boxes together to encourage his interest in travel and geography, and Kennedy-Moore says it is a wonderful way to keep his passion for learning alive. “Focus on excitement about learning,” she says.
“We can never go wrong by reaching first for empathy,” says Kennedy-Moore. “Acknowledge to your child that this is really hard. ‘I know you wish you could have regular school, it’s frustrating not to be in the classroom.’” This can go a long way toward showing kids they’re not alone in their feelings of frustration—and there is a way to stay positive. “Even adults are having Zoom fatigue,” says Kennedy-Moore. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a break or breaking a task down to be less overwhelming.”
Keep Lines of Communication Open
“The parents who communicate openly and frequently tend to develop healthy relationships with the teacher which can improve their child’s overall performance in school,” says Camilya Gunter, a first grade teacher at KIPP Life Academy in Newark. “Make sure your child is participating in weekly check-ins, daily Zoom office hours and fun activities like Zoom dance and movie parties– kids love these! Through these experiences, healthy relationships are being created and maintained to ensure that families and students feel supported through the remote learning process.”
Find the Joy
“It’s important to help your child find joy in their schoolwork,” says Amanda Geiger, a fourth grade teacher at KIPP Lanning Square Primary in Camden. “This could look like asking your children to talk about a good book they read, to model how they solved a tricky math problem that they’re proud of mastering or to share a dance or drawing they did for their music or art class. Finding ways to help your child talk about their schoolwork allows them to synthesize what they’ve learned and share what they love. It can also help illuminate areas where they might need support or areas where they might want to spend extra time.”
“What we know from terrible things like war and natural disasters, the number one predictor kids will come out okay is if they have an adult who cares about them,” Geiger says. “I don’t think we should assume kids will be damaged irrevocably by this. Sometimes it can even lead to positive things, like closer relationships with siblings.”
Bonanno suggests kids use this time to strengthen their skills and their relationships. “The skills they learn when managing their time and technology on their own and the relationships they gain while staying connected to their school community are more transferable than any lesson they’ll complete online,” says Bonanno. The lesson—whether the kids realize this or not—is a vessel to developing these skills and connections that will carry them through life.”