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Sharp Health News

Supporting students through online learning

Sept. 24, 2020

Child using computer for online learning
Parents across the country have been focused on what the new school year will look like, how classes will be delivered to children of all ages, and what equipment and supplies students will need for success. However, it is not only the practical details that parents find themselves worrying about — the emotional issues related to distance learning must be addressed, as well.

“Parents should expect their child to have strong emotions during this process,” says Dr. Jennifer Wojciechowski, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “It’s important to prepare and plan how you would like to respond. The goal is to be realistic about how we are supporting our kids well and what areas we might need to improve upon.”

Take stock of your own feelings
Noting that neither kids nor parents are perfect, Dr. Wojciechowski recommends that parents first take stock of how they are feeling about the situation. Distance learning does not only affect students. Parents’ own schedules and workloads are also greatly affected by having to help children learn while also managing other responsibilities, which can be very stressful.

“You must first label your own emotions and take note of how you are helping yourself stay calm,” she says. “For example, if you are feeling frustrated, it’s OK to explain to your child that before you answer a question, you are going to take a deep breath and think about how you want to respond.” Not only does this give a parent time to react to their child in an appropriate way, but it also models healthy behavior. Sharing what would normally be an internal process helps children learn how to cope with strong feelings, keep their bodies calm and manage their emotions.

“We all get frustrated at times, whether it’s about our own work or the support kids might need with distance learning,” Dr. Wojciechowski says. “Talking through the options of what you can do to handle frustrations, providing your child with reassurance, and making yourself available so that your child can ask questions helps everyone involved manage the feelings that arise.”

Preparation is key
Dr. Wojciechowski stresses that preparation can also make a world of difference when it comes to handling the stress and frustrations that parents and children might be feeling during this time. She offers these top five tips for supporting students during online learning:

  1. Get organized. Create a schedule; set up your student’s dedicated study space in a quiet, comfortable area devoted to learning; and make sure they have the equipment and supplies they need within reach.

  2. Discuss online learning expectations. Create family rules, such as no eating, keeping the video camera on, paying attention and remaining seated during class time.

  3. Know your child. Learn to anticipate where they might need more or less support or assistance, and be prepared to help or step back and allow them to troubleshoot on their own.

  4. Be flexible. Online learning is relatively new, so we are still working out the best ways to make connections between students and teachers. Any time there is a new process, we need to be more flexible, understanding and kind.

  5. Communicate early with teachers. Family situations, work responsibilities and schedules vary significantly right now. Let teachers know how they can best assist you and your family.
“We have to be realistic — this might be hard,” Dr. Wojciechowski says. “But remind your child, and yourself, that it’s OK to have big emotions and we can do hard things.”

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