With several weeks of the school year behind us, many of us are settling in to daily and weekly routines. We may even be finding a manageable rhythm to our engagement with students.
If we are working with students and families in a remote learning arrangement, we also need to be conscious of and sensitive to how students and the adults in their lives are managing routines and meeting the challenges they face. Obviously, this element of the learning equation is important to the learning outcomes we want for our students.
Predictably, some parents and other adults who are in the homes and lives of our students will have figured out key strategies and routines to provide support at home. However, they are likely still struggling in other areas. Other parents may just be hanging on, trying to make it through without an array of strategies and approaches that are working. They may be confronting challenges in their relationships with their children that they have not had to face before. Both groups of adults are likely experiencing stress, feeling that being a real-time partner in learning is not something they have been fully prepared for.
Now is a good time to share strategies to reduce the stress they and their children are experiencing and to support their remote learning efforts. Even for parents who are managing with relative success, the strategies can be good reminders and reinforcers for their efforts.
Here are ten practical, stress-reducing strategies you can share:
- Even though children are not leaving home each morning and meeting a full day school schedule, keep morning wake-up and evening sleep times consistent. Adequate and consistent sleep will help students’ energy levels and ability to focus, while reducing their “crankiness” quotient.
- To the extent practical, maintain a consistent daily schedule, at least during the week. Structure, predictability, and consistency can reduce anxiety and stress and prevent many needless and unproductive conflicts.
- If possible, designate a separate space for learning. Encourage your child or young person to make the space personal. Display artwork and pictures, assemble necessary materials and tools, and anything else that makes the space personal and comfortable without distracting from learning. Feeling ownership for work space can make a big difference.
- Make daily lists of tasks and responsibilities with children. The lists may include academic and non-academic items, but it is often best to separate them into categories. Be sure to follow-up on completion of tasks to ensure accountability. Often, having children check off items as they are completed can generate a sense of accomplishment and increase commitment to completing responsibilities.
- To the extent possible, build in frequent breaks during learning time. Screen time can be exhausting. Even standing, stretching, or moving can be enough to refresh attention and energy. Scheduling breaks so that students can anticipate and manage their time can also be helpful.
- Make it a priority to provide feedback and encouragement relative to learning growth and behavior. Students are often accustomed to receiving frequent feedback and support from teachers in face-to-face environments. Such levels of feedback and support are not always possible in remote learning environments. Parents can help to fill this gap and reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation.
- As much as possible, eliminate interruptions and distractions while students are engaged in online and other learning activities. It can be tempting to make a comment, offer a snack, or otherwise engage children in well-intended but off-task activities. While physical proximity makes engagement convenient, it can still interrupt learning and create stress.
- Filter your feelings and frustrations and where necessary, model your coping skills and strategies. Your filtering can avoid overwhelming your child, while your coping activities can offer lessons from which they can learn.
- Find ways to connect your child with others, even though in-person time may not be a current option. The face-to-face school experience offers almost constant opportunities for students to interact and connect with other students. The loss of engagement with other students can create stress and feelings of isolation. Social media, socially distanced activities, and video engagement can lessen these feelings, even if full, in-person connections are not possible.
- Don’t wait if your child is experiencing technology, instruction, relationship or other issues. Contact your child’s teacher and enlist their help to find solutions and locate the resources you need.
Obviously, we cannot remove all the stress and challenges that accompany remote learning. Still, the more we can help parents lessen the distractions and frustrations students experience, the less stress with which parents will have to cope.