Dr. Jennifer LaTreill
Distance Learning Support for Parents
Parenting comes with a variety of challenges, but who could have expected that it would also include distance learning while social distancing during a global pandemic? The unexpected often prompts an array of difficulties that impacts your emotional, behavioral, and financial stability. My name is Dr. Jennifer LaTreill, postdoctoral psychology resident working with Dr. Russo. I want you to know that while no one has the exact answers that will fix the stressors that come along with our “new normal,” here are a few tips that might make things just a touch easier.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
I know, I know, much easer said than done. However, a schedule both keeps you sane as a parent and provides children with clear expectations. Knowing what is expected of them as well as knowing what each day will bring not only minimizes a child’s anxiety and frustration, it also helps decrease behavioral outbursts and increases compliance regarding academic tasks.
Distance learning is a whole new ball game for everyone involved and keeping a schedule will help change children’s mindset regarding learning in their home environment. In other words, they learn to expect to complete their work even though they aren’t in the classroom. As always with children, consistency is key, but also don’t forget to be patient with yourself as a parent. This is new for you too.
2. Create a designated workspace.
This helps kids understand when it is play time versus time to get their schoolwork finished.
3. Don’t forget to add physical activity to your new schedule.
Both children and adults alike require motor breaks throughout the day. Strive for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
4. Spend extra time playing with your children.
Children rarely express their emotions verbally, but rather express themselves and seek attention through play. Play can be cathartic and helpful for children as it is how they process their world, problem solve, and learn to cope with stress.
5. Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
Both for you and your children. Developing a self-care toolkit may be beneficial in order to have comforting items or activities at hand. Many successful self-care strategies involve the seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell.
Some ideas may include: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, mandala coloring books, bubbles, blowing watercolor on paper through a straw (this is visually appealing but also helps children regulate their breath), weighted blankets, hot chocolate, and photos of past vacations.
6. Think outside the box.
Social distancing has complicated and limited a variety of fun activities; however, finding fun activities that are still available may help ease the pain of distant learning. For example, many zoos are providing virtual tours of the animals.
The San Diego Zoo offers such virtual visits and this activity is not only educational but also fun for kiddos who need a break from academic work. Cooking or gardening may also provide an educational, fun experience for kids!
7. Find something you and your child can control and control the heck out of it.
With so much uncertainty and change, it can be nice to control something in your corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, let your child group their own toys, or move around the furniture. Having something to control helps anchor and ground us when everything else is chaotic.
8. Last and most certainly not least, Reach out for help!
There is help and support out there. Teachers, therapists, neighbors, and support groups are available, and I can ensure you that everyone is willing to do what it takes to help. During this time, it is understandable and expected that we all have a bit more anxiety and distress.
If you are having trouble coping or think your child needs extra assistance, there are mental health providers ready to help you through this crisis and transition. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again... be patient and forgiving with yourself. You’re going through an unprecedented event that has turned the world on its side and you’re doing the best you can.