By Leanna Alonso, LSW
Virtual Learning & Covid.
School has always been a major part of children’s and adolescent’s lives. Going to school provided the family with structure, expectations, routine and socialization. Since COVID, e-learning has now become the new norm for elementary, middle and high schoolers. Adding to the stress of the disruption in family routine is that parents are also working from home. Parents are expected to fulfill their work responsibilities as well as help their children with e-learning or homeschooling.
Schools have switched to e-learning or hybrid schedules, and the change has been difficult for most children. Now, children sit in a chair for most of the day and must navigate the technological map of e-learning. Many children and teens are displaying increased anxiety, depression and irritability due to more screen time and less personal social time with peers.
Parents have also had to make this adjustment as well, as they help their children with their social-emotional needs, work from home, and help their children with school work. With family members at home all day, compartmentalizing work life, social life, and relaxation time is difficult.
Luckily, there are some proven strategies to help families cope with and mitigate the stresses of e-learning.
Strategies for Parents
1. Creating And Maintaining A Routine
Prior to the pandemic, a household’s typical routine looked like this:
Children getting up at a specific time every morning, completing hygiene, eating breakfast, getting dressed and ready for school, and leaving for the school day. There might have also been evening routines, such as eating dinner, doing homework, completing hygiene, getting everything ready for the next day, and going to bed at a certain time.
Although children no longer leave the home every morning for school (unless children have hybrid schedules), creating a routine similar to when kids are in school helps to reduce anxiety in children. Since children thrive in structured routines, creating a morning and evening routine helps children to know what to expect, improves time management and organization, and gives children a sense of control over their environment.
Instead of allowing your child to hop onto e-learning in the morning, encourage them to get completely dressed prior to logging on to help them feel more confident and alert for school.
2. Creating Balance
Children need to move. Physical activity for your child is crucial to helping your child succeed with the stressors that e-learning brings. When children were in school, they were able to interact with others, move around the room, possibly change classrooms, and go outside to play during recess and to socialize with their peers. Unfortunately, children are not always getting the appropriate amount of physical or social interaction needed for their emotional and mental health.
Allow your child to have a minimum of 60 minutes a day outdoors or engaging in physical activity. Encourage your child to pick up a hobby to give space for creativity as an outlet for stress. Parents should make time in their schedule to manage the child’s break time and follow through. Remember, the break is necessary for children to emotionally regulate themselves.
3. Creating Space For School
I’ve been hearing from a lot of parents that their child is sitting in their bedroom or in a really noisy location of the home to work on e-learning. The location of the child’s studying space is crucial to his or her school success. Make sure to find a room in the house that has little distractions.
Also, our brains are built in a way that categorizes things so that we can understand the world around us. Every place in our home has a purpose. For example, our bedrooms should be a place for relaxation and sleep, and kitchens are where we cook our food and eat.
When children work on e-learning in their bedrooms, it can be hard for them to wind down before bedtime due to having sat in the room for a big chunk of the day. It’s helpful to have children complete e-learning in a different room other than their bedroom for this reason. Not only will it help the child to focus more in school, but it will help the child to have a sleeping routine and to wind down for the night.