This pandemic has brought about a lot of new challenges in all aspects of one’s life. Take, for example, business establishments and schools closing for a long time. Everyone is advised to stay home, hence the new norm has become: work from home and distance learning. Distance learning is just like homeschooling, the difference between distance learning and homeschooling is that the parents of the distance learners are not ready for this stress-filled challenge. Here are some tips to lessen the stress of this new norm.
Set a schedule
It would be quite a challenge, especially for working parents to be taking on the role of the teacher during this time. Work and school problems and home management are quite a heavy burden especially for parents who are doing double shifts to make ends meet. The stress of it all can take a toll not only on their physical health but on their mental health as well. To address this, it would be wise to set a schedule.
Setting a schedule and sticking to it will save you a lot of resources—time, energy, disappointments, stress, and even feelings of inadequacy. You can prepare ahead of time, removing the stress of cramming and preparing wrong things at the wrong time. Little accomplishments of the day can mean a lot and can give you simple joys in these tiny victories. By keeping a schedule, your child can set attainable goals. And goal-setting has been proven to enhance self-efficacy and skills.
For newbie parents who do not have a clue about homeschooling or distance learning, these following books can save your lives, literally. As they say, it is best to be fully prepared than be broken mentally and physically due to unpreparedness. You can check them out:
Establish routines and expectations
Now that you have set your schedule of classes and activities, the next best thing to do is to establish routines and expectations. Studies have shown that families who are committed to establishing family routines have children showing higher academic performance than others. Establishing routines can increase early literacy in children and can thereby influence academic performance. These children also learn assertiveness in social skills. Participation in routines in the family has also shown to language development and academic achievement.
When you are able to establish expectations, the child can direct himself in achieving these expectations. This is most helpful in creating a direction for the learning and development of distance learners. Moreover, with expectations set, you can stress less on how to go about teaching your children. Your actions will be guided by these expectations. This reduces any opportunities for misunderstanding between you and your children.
Stock school supplies at home
Everything that your children might need should be checked and completed before the start of any class. For this special time, it is better to stock school supplies at home since you will be stuck at home for an unknown length of time.
Create a classroom that is conducive to learning
It could be challenging for children to set their mind that they are in the school zone when they are at home. At home, they are more relaxed, playful, and could easily get distracted. This is different from just doing homework since they only have to focus on it for a short time. Distance learning has to have space only for that—learning. It would help if the environment or room is set up just like a real classroom; that way, they can see that they are going to be having real classes. Things you can prepare for this room:
- Whiteboard and markers
- School supplies organizers
- Desk and chair
- Laptop accessories (i.e., headphones, mouse, printer)
- Educational posters
- Bulletin board
Secure all contact numbers of their teachers
The modules and learning tasks will be given out to you before their classes begin. Although teachers will still be in touch with your children through their online sessions, it is wise to have all their teachers’ contact details for possible queries or concerns in the future. You can help your children communicate their worries or concerns to their teachers, which can be done over the phone or other media.
Help them communicate with their teachers
One of the challenges that you will face as parents of distant learners is that there will be a lot of questions from your kids. These questions can be random, or they can be related to their learning tasks. Whatever the questions are, you must acknowledge them and communicate with their teachers. This will help them be more effective and efficient students. This can make your children feel that they are validated and affirmed. It is also one way of showing our kids that we support them, as this new norm can bring about worries of uncertainty to your children.
Create a network with their peers
It is also helpful to create a network of your children’s peers, even if it is online. That way, they can see that they are not alone in this new norm and that they have friends who are going through the same process as them. You can give them time to video chat, and host an online playdate with your fellow parents. This can make them excited to see their friends and make their learning experience more bearable.
Help them understand the subject matter and do not answer for them
One of the hardest things that parents encounter in distance learning is that they too, have to relearn everything that their children are learning. And helping their children understand the topics rather than just merely answering the learning tasks or modules. There is a difference between teaching them to learn on their own and giving the answers outright to them. By teaching them self-directed learning or how to be self-reliant, they can understand the subject matter more, rather than spoon-feeding them answers.
Always check-in on them
Always start and end your day by checking in on them. What do they need? How can you help? Are they having difficulties with the learning tasks? How do they feel about distance learning? Mental health is so important these days, that simply checking in on them can make them feel loved and secured. Conversations at the dinner table can involve these questions. This practice can help your children process the situation better. They can also see that they are not alone in this situation and that they have your support.
Monitor their time online
It is good to teach them self-reliance, but it is also good to make sure that they are not being harassed online or that they are focusing on their classes and not on other things (i.e., online games, Youtube, social media, etc.).
List possible problems that come with distance learning
As we check in on our children, we may have to ask if they are having problems with distance learning. This is important for this new norm to work. It is easier to resolve issues when you are aware of these issues upfront. Is your child having problems with his teacher or his lessons? Can he understand the lectures being given through this mode of learning? Does he know how to verbalize his queries or concerns during class? Is he able to verbalize those things? Do you have enough supplies for your child? Are his tasks completed? Does he need help? Does he interact with his classmates while online? Is there a connectivity problem? Any issues with the modules or learning resources or materials? The list could go on and on. Hence, it is only right to list them all down (if there are any) so that you can address these properly.
Discuss these problems with your child and try to resolve them
When you are done listing down all problems with distance learning, you can now discuss these with your child and try to come up with possible solutions. Having casual conversations over simple problems like these can ease the child and help them feel comfortable in opening up to us, parents. Sometimes, they just need to be in a calm environment to be able to open and speak freely.
Encourage physical activities in between “classes”
To break the monotony, encourage your child to play a little or do some physical exercises. It would be great if you could join him. it’s good to balance work or classes with fun so that your child won’t lose interest in this new mode of learning. Most children do not meet the recommended amount of time or physical activity per day. Studies have shown that children aged 5 to 17 years of age are recommended to an hour of vigorous activity per day.  These strenuous activities can prevent childhood obesity and depression, among others. Examples of these physical activities include:
- Jumping rope
Not everyone can learn at the same pace or through the same methods. Some may even have difficulties with schoolwork when classes are conducted through a laptop. Customizing your child’s learning according to his pace and learning preference can make this whole thing easy. It will keep the stress off your mind, worrying if your child understood the lecture or not.
Learning through playing
There are many benefits earned from play therapy. There is a direct effect on the academic achievement of children when play therapy is employed in the school. When children have fun learning, there is more retention and better performance in academics. This is an effective approach in teaching children, especially kids with neurodevelopmental issues.
Debrief and destress
By the end of the day, you and your child might feel exhausted due to the additional stress and work that you both have to put in distance learning. A shared experience is always better than going through it alone. Talk to your child and let him know that it’s normal to get tired and stressed over schoolwork. Show him that you support him and that you are willing to help him, whichever way you can. Talk over cookies and milk. Share a pint of ice cream. Lounge around while watching your favorite movie. At the end of the day, what matters is that you are both physically and mentally okay.
Lastly, as you go through the school year with this new normal, I recommend that you prepare by researching about distance learning or homeschooling through this book: Everything You Need to Know about Homeschooling: A Comprehensive, Easy-to-Use Guide for the Journey from Early Learning through Graduation. The next thing you do is to create a conducive space for learning by preparing the things that your child might need, including a portable laptop and stocking on school supplies .
 Schunk, Dale H. “Participation in goal setting: Effects on self-efficacy and skills of learning-disabled children.” The Journal of Special Education 19.3 (1985): 307-317.
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 Fiese, B. H., and R. S. Everhart. “Routines.” Encyclopedia of infant and early childhood development. Elsevier Inc., 2008. 34-41.
 Pate, Russell R., and Jennifer R. O’Neill. “After-school interventions to increase physical activity among youth.” British journal of sports medicine 43.1 (2009): 14-18.
 Janssen, Ian, and Allana G. LeBlanc. “Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth.” International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 7.1 (2010): 1-16.
 Warburton, Darren ER, Crystal Whitney Nicol, and Shannon SD Bredin. “Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence.” Cmaj 174.6 (2006): 801-809.
 Ray, Dee, Joel Muro, and Brandy Schumann. “Implementing play therapy in the schools: Lessons learned.” International Journal of Play Therapy 13.1 (2004): 79.
 Blanco, Pedro J., and Dee C. Ray. “Play therapy in elementary schools: A best practice for improving academic achievement.” Journal of Counseling & Development 89.2 (2011): 235-243.