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How to Help Kids Deal with Distance Learning

Are you at the point of feeling completely helpless and lost with this whole, distance learning ordeal? You aren’t alone, I promise!

Take a second and think back on what your childhood was like. Think of the time you were 5 or 10 or 15, what was your favorite thing to do during that stage of life? I guarantee it wasn’t going to school to better your educations, rather, it was going to school to hang out with your friends. Even if you didn’t have that many friends, you were still getting away from the house, away from your parents, away from your siblings (if you had them), away from any of the problems that were at home…The social interactions were LIFE (as the kids say these days).

So, now, thinking about what kids today are dealing with. They don’t have the break from home, because they’re stuck at home. They are being forced to do all of their school work at home with mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/aunt/uncle/babysitter etc. there to hopefully help them. In the most unfortunate situations, there are some YOUNG children being left at home alone because mom and dad have to go to work in order to keep the roof over their head. I can’t imagine what those children are going through. Furthermore, Children are being forced to learn through one format; the screen.

I can remember being in college and doing a few online courses and struggling (majorly) because it was so hard for me to comprehend any of the curriculum from my computer screen. I ended up having to print out all of my lectures and all of the readings because I needed to be able to underline, highlight, cross out, write on and FEEL the paper I was reading. I know I’m not the only one who better digests and comprehends information by having it on paper vs on a screen.

Now think, I was in college, a 20something who already had my foundation for learning set. I knew how to study for a test, I knew what I needed to do in order to better understand material I knew nothing about. So what then are we expecting of our adolescent children? These children are no where near what a college student is. We are forcing them to learn from this one platform and expect them to just comprehend and grasp all the NEW concepts that are thrown at them. Why? Why do we expect them to be able to learn this way…AND do it without complaining…???

Well if we are really present during this all, we aren’t expecting them to take on all of this and to be OK with it all. Children are still children during this pandemic and they still have valid feelings, emotions and thoughts. If anything we must understand, they are more susceptible to more breakdowns, more tantrums, bigger emotions, more doubt, more insecurities, more anxiety, more of EVERYTHING!

We as adults are constantly saying “during these unprecedented times” blah, blah, blah, that we are allowed to have meltdowns, we are allowed to have anxiety attacks, we are allowed to have unmeasurable stress…”we are allowed” because of this pandemic. So in turn, our children are “allowed” to defy distance learning. They are allowed to defy questioning why they have to get up and dressed and “ready for the day” when they are only going to be sitting on the computer in their home, all the while little brother or sister are still in their PJs watching Mickey. They are “allowed” to feel that frustration and confusion.

They are totally “allowed” to not understand the new material they are supposed to be learning because it’s not taught in the same manner as “normal.” I know my 7 year old is not a screen learner and she is struggling right now. She is struggling in every sense but her and I have to both accept that she is struggling and keep on going. We have to keep pushing through even if she doesn’t understand it, I help her where I can but we keep going. WE KEEP GOING because that is our new NORM.

So, what can you do to help your child cope with being frustrated, inability to comprehend material, anger, jealousy, sadness, etc.

1. Listen– When I say listen, I mean actively listen. Genuinely hear what they are struggling with, what they are frustrated with, why are they so frustrated. Listen for that teeny tiny hint of what can help them through this. Don’t be thinking in your mind of a response, just shut off and listen to them. They may scream, they may cry, they may take a few moments to start talking, but just give them the time to express IT ALL.

2. Respond…NOT REACT– It is so easy for us parents to react instead of respond. The difference is this, to react is to not put any thought into what you are about to say or the actions you are about to take. Its is the knee jerk intuition. Compared to Respond, which is taking a moment to gather yourself, gather your thoughts, and come out with them in a constructive and rational manner. Parents tend to react because we usually have screaming child in front of us and by that point our patience have run dry. But I urge you, especially in these times to take a moment, take in a deep breath, then think and speak. Respond to your child who is expressing they are in need of help.

Responding constructively looks like this: ” I hear you’re frustrated with having to do all of your work on the computer” or “I hear you’re frustrated because your teacher doesn’t see you on the zoom call when your’e raising your hand, when you know the answer”….then, is something you have in mind as a solution to this frustration? Do you want me to help, or do you want me to get involved? or do you want me to just listen? (This is important particularly with older children. Sometimes they just want someone to vent to and just to listen. They don’t always need advice or a response. Just as we adults, need our guy friends/girl friends that we vent to to relieve the stress and get it all off our chest, children are the same way. We MUST REMEMBER they are human too!

3. Spark Joy– Find something that will bring joy to your child. If it’s one on one time with you, carve out some time for that. If it’s bringing home a cake pop from Starbucks, do that. If it’s just sitting with them while they play their video game, do that. Children right now are in fact, in need of even more attention that when we are in our “normal” state. Eventhough you’re home all day with them, the stress and uncertainty of everything makes them need the security of their parents EVEN MORE. So go and do that little thing that you know will make them happy.

4. Do More– Do more with your child. If you’re going on a walk, ask your child to go with you. If you’re going to the store and you know it will be safe for you child to go too, ask them to do. If you know that your child needs to play catch to get their mind off of school, then play catch. Do more for your child.

5. Bribery– Lastly, when you’re in a bind. Never doubt the power of BRIBERY! This can look like a variety of different things, i.e.: more movie time at night, staying up later, ice cream after dinner even if they don’t eat all their dinner, candy (because what kid doesn’t like candy..haha), Try to think of anything (within reason) that will get them motivated.

6. LOVE THEM!These times are extremely hard for children. Hold them, love them, and reassure them that hard times are never permanent.

Hang in there! This too shall pass 🙂

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