Guest contributor and school counselor Emily Bush shared her tips on how to keep your kids engaged while doing at-home learning as well as ways to ease their transition back to in-person schooling.
With schools working to create a safe environment for students and teachers, and parents struggling to find the best option, many are faced with a new school year of virtual learning, in-person learning or some kind of blended option. With so many questions hovering, children can struggle to focus in a new environment.
How do you keep your children engaged at home, and how do you ensure a smooth transition when they return to the classroom? Here are some ideas:
Practice asking questions and getting the teacher’s attention.
The best way for children to remain invested in learning, whether in the classroom or at home, is developing a good teacher-child relationship. While physical distance might slow the development of this relationship, have your child practice asking questions when confused, getting the teacher’s attention (appropriately and politely) and expressing feelings about school to the teacher. Role-play different scenarios with your children to boost their confidence and equip them to advocate for their at-home learning needs.
Walk your child to school.
Physical activity is a great way to get a brain ready for the day. After a hearty breakfast, have your children pack their backpacks with their homework and school supplies and take a walk with you around the block. Chat with your children about school and what they are anticipating in the coming day. This simple routine will help children have all the needed school materials ready to go and get their minds and bodies ready to learn.
Create a calm, structured learning space.
Our minds associate spaces with repeated activities and automatically activate the emotions associated with that activity. Having a dedicated space for learning and separate space for relaxation will help students be alert when necessary and be able to destress when the school day is over. Behaviors such as studying in bed can create confusion, causing drowsiness while working and then interrupting sleep at night.
While some students have been back on campus for weeks, others are slowly preparing to return. It is important to help children be prepared, with a few things to keep in mind for re-entering the school building:
Practice wearing masks.
When schools are able to resume meeting in person, rules and regulations will vary. However, anticipate added protocols to reduce the spread of disease. The CDC states that wearing a mask is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Children (and adults) will become more comfortable wearing masks over time, but practicing before the start of in-person school can reduce discomfort and anxiety. Have children play with you (while wearing their masks) at home for 15–30 minutes at a time to help them get used to them.
Create a weekly check-in.
Set a weekly 30-minute playdate with your child. Use this time to reconnect and enjoy each other. This anticipated time will also provide a regular opportunity for your child to share any worries or concerns about school.
Care for all types of jitters.
Returning to school can cause anticipation and worry during normal times, but anxiety may be heightened this year due to increased health concerns. Young children tend to focus their worry on concrete fears (i.e., spiders, forgetting a lunchbox at home or having the wrong color shoes) rather than abstract concepts (a microscopic virus and economic stress); however, children do often internalize the fears of their guardians. Look for increased separation anxiety, nightmares and fear of the dark or other physical dangers. Collaborate with your child to create a plan and equip them with strategies to address their fears.
As we all grapple with this year’s challenges and work to find the best solution for our children, know that their level of engagement or excitement may differ from “normal” school years. Give them the space they need to adjust to new rules, and give your whole family permission to safely express the wide range of emotions our current situation may create.
Emily Bush, MS, LPC, is the lower school counselor at Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) in Addison.
Image courtesy of iStock.