Keep the peace (and your sanity) at home with these six strategies.
Fall is fast approaching and parents are preparing to assume the role of teacher’s assistant as many schools continue at-home learning. For some, that can be a major source of stress and anxiety, especially if you’re juggling school and a full-time job. In fact, 71 percent of parents said in a poll last May that managing distance learning for their kids was a “significant” source of stress.
Given this new normal, families everywhere are faced with the same problem: how to make at-home learning work while keeping the peace at home. Here are six strategies, including ways to curb screen time while distance learning, to help you get there.
Create a fresh routine for fall. Kids do best when they have a predictable schedule. Your kid’s teacher will likely send the day’s lessons in advance, so help come up with the before and afters. Start the morning with an online yoga class or a walk outside (you’re saving on all that carpool time!), take screen time breaks with your kids throughout the day for conversation and clean up—chores can teach kids skills like planning, organization, and problem solving—and turn off devices at the end of the school/work day so you can shift to home life together.
Give them space. Kids need time and space to process questions and think through problems, and sometimes having their parents intervene can increase their stress levels. Dr. Delaney Ruston, creator of the award-winning film Screenagers, says: “It actually makes us feel better when we’re stepping in and trying to help but it actually makes it worse often for teens. I’ve come to ask my daughter ‘What have you thought of as a solution?’ if she’s having a hard time or ‘Let me know if I can help problem-solve.’” Designating a physical study space for them to focus on classwork can also help them thrive with online learning.
Keep it positive. When kids do come up with the right answer or a successful solution, rather than say the standard “good job,” be specific about what they’ve accomplished. Phrases that emphasize their best effort and qualities can be more intrinsically motivating. “You worked hard on that project,” “Your studying really paid off,” “That took a lot of imagination and creativity” are all good alternatives.
Mix easy and difficult tasks. If your kid is struggling (and in turn, so are you), take a break and move on to something easier for them. Sometimes kids just need to feel that sense of accomplishment in order to gain the confidence to tackle a more challenging task. If that means being flexible with your routine, then that’s okay—a little unstructured time can help kids strengthen their creativity, imagination, and self-regulation skills if the situation calls for it.
Ask for help. Teachers are the pros here and they can be valuable in helping you work through any roadblocks. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them to brainstorm ways to make remote learning work best for your kid. Connect with other families too for more than just commiserating (but also for commiserating). Ask about their successes or how they made certain areas of distance learning work for them. Consider setting up virtual peer groups for your kids so they can study with classmates, which can be good for social interaction during this time.
Take it easy on yourself. “You're not going to be able to do it all perfectly well. It’s just not possible.” says Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the UConn School of Medicine. We can’t expect kids to be as engaged in online school as they are (or for as long as they are) IRL but the idea is to keep up with their skills, give them some structure throughout the day, and create some semblance of routine and normalcy.
And continue to balance screen time with IRL activities. A new study has found that a major source of stress for parents is linked to not enforcing screen time rules. Of course, kids are going to be online more now than before the pandemic but having a screen time schedule can help ease some of the stress at home this fall. Parental controls can help by allowing access to educational apps, such as Google Docs, Wikipedia, or other online resources while restricting access to apps and sites that could be distracting (looking at you, TikTok!). Here is how Circle can help you schedule screen time and real time throughout the school year.