For the media

Back to school — at home

By The Health News Team | August 27, 2020
Parent helping child with homework

Whether you were given the choice to have your child attend school online, in person or a hybrid of the two, the majority of San Diego students in kindergarten through 12th grade will likely experience some virtual instruction. This is due to state guidelines that call for schools to remain closed until they can safely reopen during the pandemic and, once opened, have contingency plans in case community spread of COVID-19 occurs during the school year, leading them to temporarily close.

This leaves many parents wondering how to cope with distance learning once again. Along with concerns about managing their other responsibilities — working, caring for younger siblings and aging parents, running a household and maintaining their own health — parents also share common concerns about a virtual education, including:

  • Quality of education

  • Access to technology

  • Maintaining interest and engagement

  • Social isolation

  • Lack of movement

  • Increase in screen time

“This is a time of great uncertainty,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “There is lots of change and it's important to accept that and take things one day at a time.”

Here, she offers her top five tips to cope with some of these challenges:

  1. Set up a designated workspace.
    Try to find a quiet nook in a room away from too much activity or even a spot at the dinner table that can be designated as the home “classroom.” Headphones will help if noise is a problem. Make sure there is a good light source and that school supplies are within reach. A chair that offers lower back support is important, and feet should be firmly planted on the ground or on a foot rest when sitting.

    The computer, laptop or other digital device should be close enough to comfortably reach without stretching or straining. Digital screens should not be too bright or dim and should also be positioned at eye level to avoid continuous tilting of the head. Talk to your school or district if you need assistance obtaining technology or connectivity.

  2. Make time for movement.
    Kids should get approximately 60 minutes of exercise daily, which might seem like a lot, but can be accomplished in short bursts of time as they help around the house doing chores, play in the yard, garden, or take an online dance, karate or yoga class.

    Better yet, consider exercising together as a family — do an online class together, go for a bike ride or walk, or toss or kick a ball at the park. These are all things that everyone can do to maintain a healthy weight, boost immunity and improve mental health.

  3. Revisit screen time rules.
    Virtual school will naturally demand that your student spends more time online. During this time, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that your child’s screen time is personalized to focus less on the amount of screen time and more on the quality of the content.

    While distance learning might include video conferencing, prerecorded videos and online reading, additional screen time should also focus on active engagement in learning, creativity and connecting with others, instead of passive, sedentary programming.

  4. Encourage new interests.
    Being at home allows your child a little extra time to pursue some new interests and activities. There are so many resources available online and virtually through your local library to learn a new skill, such as drawing, painting, gardening, sewing, cooking and playing an instrument.

    Remember that the goal is to do something, not do something perfectly, so encourage kids to approach new interests with the simple objective of learning and having fun. And try to join in on some of their new endeavors if you can.

  5. Maintain their mental health.
    This is a time of increased worry and anxiety and children are not immune to feeling the weight of these concerns. Check in with them to ask how they're feeling, if they’re troubled by any worries or fears, and how you might help them when they’re feeling down.

    Make sure they are staying engaged during classes and encourage them to keep their video on so they can better connect with their teachers and classmates. Create opportunities to spend time with others by arranging outdoor playdates — socially distanced with everyone wearing face coverings, of course — or helping them set up a fun video call with a group of friends.
    Talk to your child’s doctor if they seem persistently sad or uninterested in the activities they usually enjoy, or if you notice changes in their eating, sleep or moods.

“What we are collectively experiencing during the pandemic is very, very difficult for everyone,” Dr. Olulade says. “It's not easy, especially when you have to work, have other children to take care of, and are coping with other responsibilities and concerns. These are the challenges that we all face and it’s important to remember that can get through this together.”

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