EXPERT TIPS: Parenting & Distance Learning

How To Be A Perfect Pandemic Parent

Just kidding!

No one thinks parenting during a lockdown is easy. Everyone is new to Distance Learning. So, please ignore those perfect parent you see on social media! Adjusting to Distance Learning is a challenge for students, parents and teachers… It is absolutely harder for some families than others, but no one finds this easy. Many OA parents are tackling financial and logistical crises and most are trying to juggle their own jobs while overseeing schoolwork.

The OCC has compiled some expert tips and online resources we hope will be reassuring and helpful.

Communicate with Teachers

Principal Cruz has reassured us that teachers are being flexible and really DO understand your struggle. They are trying to be available to take your calls and emails. Reach out!

But please remember that your teachers are also juggling family & work. They too are new to distance learning and working from home. They too are working hard to master Microsoft TEAMS. We are ALL scaling a massive learning curve, so let’s be patient with one another through this mess. 

Be specific and strategic in your teacher communications:

  • Ask teachers for guidance on what schoolwork or skill should prioritized. If your child (or you) is feeling overwhelmed, ask “What are the top things my child should get done or master this week?”
  • Ask “You know my child. Which of these tasks do you think we could skip and which should we spend extra time on?” For example, your teacher may emphasize different goals for a kid who struggles with organization than for a kid who is overly perfectionistic and anxious. 
  • Encourage your child (if age appropriate) to reach out to teachers directly. If necessary, help them craft an effective and polite email to a teacher.

Expert Tips

  • Build a Routine. We know you’re sick of hearing this advice! The key is to remember you cannot – and should not – try to replicate the school day or emulate some color-coded master schedule you saw on social media. During a pandemic, your routine must be tailored to your family. Period. And your routine should be more flexible than usual and should accommodate frequent updating! (Think of how often the CDC, White House, the Mayor…and everyone.. has had to adjust the pandemic rules and recommendations across just 2 months!).
    • Collaborate with your kids to draft a schedule. Ask them how long they need for a certain activity. Give them choices. Think in small blocks of time.
    • Ask the teacher for guidance on age-appropriate routines suitable for your kid’s learning style and personality– and your family’s daily rhythm.
  • Move your bodies. In addition to the obvious dog walks, hikes, and bike rides, there are many ways for kids to move. Here are some: build a fort, indoor hopscotch, hula hoop, see who can jump rope for the longest without tripping, limbo, twister, perform a dance routine, hang a pull-up bar, weed in the garden.
  • Set aside dedicated parent-kid time when your child can have uninterrupted access to mom or dad. Even something super simple. That way you can point them into the schedule, and say, ‘We are going to play a game in 15 minutes.”
  • Schedule time with relatives online. An aunt can read a book to your child over FaceTime or help with math homework (Sal Kahn started Kahn Academy after giving his faraway niece math help over the Internet!)
  • Keep some limits on screen time, but cut yourself some slack! Maybe encourage FaceTime with friends in place of unstructured internet searches and YouTube.
  • Have kids earn privileges (fun activity, screen time) when they do work or chores without complaining or being nagged (as opposed to the opposite, whereby privileges are only taken AWAY when the child does something wrong.
  • Use a timerThis helps distinguish work time from break time. To start, when your kid has to work on an assignment, take note of how long it typically takes for him or her to get off task. Use this as your baseline, “a timing period that your child can reasonably achieve.” For the next work session, your child should work continuously throughout that timing period, and reset the timer if they go off track and need reminders. Once they complete a work period without a reminder, they can have a reward of praise or access to a preferred activity. As your child “successfully completes several intervals in a row, gradually increase the length of the work until they’re working independently for 30 minutes.” NYT
  • Remember that learning is everywhere. Cooking, art projects, puzzles and games, gardening.

Look for Silver Linings

Although it may seem difficult to see the benefits of social distancing and such disruption to everyday lives—at least right now—there are some silver linings for many of us. We are have more slow paced time with each other. The experience can teach children how to deal with disappointment and be more flexible, which is a vital life skill and one that parents can model as they work to get through this, too.

Resources and Links

Child Mind Institution at Yale has great stuff, including Resources for Home Learning.

The Yale Child Study Center’s social-emotional workbook for children. First Aid for Feelings: A Workbook to Help Kids Cope During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Washington Post article
New York Times article
Child Mind Institution
Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook

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