Many of us don’t have experience teleworking or teaching our children from home. We’re facing challenges trying to help our children adjust to distance learning while we’re also adjusting to remote work routines. Having patience with yourself, your children, and loved ones is especially important and may be challenging right now. Give yourself and others some grace.
Here are some tips for managing distance learning with your kids:
Acknowledge that this is hard. We are being asked to do a lot: working, distance learning, providing food, keeping ourselves and our families safe. It’s a stressful situation.
Keep to a routine, but be flexible. Children do well when they have a familiar routine, but be prepared to make changes if and when it’s necessary.
Reassure your children that they are safe. They may be feeling anxious, fearful or angry. Be patient and supportive with them as they navigate these feelings.
Make time for play and being outside.
Look for different types of learning opportunities. Regular home tasks can become learning: baking = chemistry or math, gardening = botany or science; sending a letter to a relative = English.
Don’t feel like you need to spend too much time doing homeschooling. Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recommends the following guidelines for maximum student commitment each day:
- Pre–K: 30 minutes
- Grades K–1: 45 minutes
- Grades 2–3: 60 minutes
- Grades 4–5: 90 minutes
- Grades 6–8: 20 minutes per class (2.5 hours maximum per day)
- Grades 9–12: 30 minutes per class (3 hours maximum per day)
OSPI also has information on resources for distance learning.
Feel like distance learning is overwhelming? That’s OK too. Reading, playing outside, or just having a family dinner can all be ways to stay connected with your family during this challenging time. Activities don’t have to be called “school” to be a learning opportunity.
Distancing Learning for Children with Special Needs
Distance learning can present more unique challenges if you have children with special needs. Many people may be worried about their child struggling if they are unable to access regular therapies. Many students rely on schools for regularly scheduled therapies and interactions that help their child thrive. This can add to the grief and anxiety many of us are already experiencing.
HealthyChildren.org and OSPI are good resources for information about teaching children with special needs at home. You can also check with your child’s school district to find resources and updates.
Helping Your Child Deal with Their Emotions
Some children may be having a particularly hard time managing their feelings about school closures. They may be missing their friends and teachers and feeling isolated and lonely. Our fifth-graders, eighth-graders and seniors are saying goodbye to their schools without the celebrations they were looking forward to.
Being mindful and supportive of your child’s mental health is always important but even more so now. The CDC and the Child Mind Institute offer suggestions for supporting students’ mental wellness during school closures, including:
- Sharing facts about COVID-19 in a way your child can understand, while reassuring them that they are safe
- Limiting your family’s exposure to news coverage
- Make plans, even small ones, for your family to look forward to, like cooking a special meal, or a family movie night
Take Care of Your Own Mental Health Too
It’s difficult to care for others if you are not caring for yourself. As parents, we must make our mental health a priority. Maintaining a consistent, 8-hour sleep schedule, getting enough physical exercise and eating a balanced diet are all vital to a healthy life. Stay connected with loved ones and prioritize relationships with caring and understanding people. Practice relaxation techniques. The American Psychological Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness are great resources for finding ways to cope with stress and build resilience.
This is temporary. Schools will eventually reopen, and kids and parents will be back to their regular routines. This is an unprecedented situation, and we are all trying to find our new normal. What works for one family might not work for another. We need to remember to be kind to ourselves and our children, and give ourselves room to adjust to our new situations.