Tackling Challenges in Distance Learning
By Claudia Rios-Gastelum, LMFT 97284
Most children have been in school for over a month by the time of this post. You probably have a routine and organizational system and find that you or your child are still struggling with distance learning. Here are a few things to take into consideration to support your family:
1) Distraction: There is always a reason a child will become distracted during learning. Most children need the adults to problem solve the initial steps first such as implementing routines and organizational steps. However, if an organizational and routine framework has already been set up and consistently implemented there might be more at play. I like to put on my detective hat to problem solve this area: “Are they hungry/thirsty, bored, overwhelmed?” A good detective goes straight to the source. Invite this conversation with your child and work as a team to identify problem solving steps. If more is needed or you are concerned that your child might have learning difficulties, you can request an evaluation for individualized learning needs by submitting it in writing to your child’s school.
2) Motivation: Refusing organization or routines is a typical behavioral responce in children when they want to test limits as they may be having a hard time adjusting to the changes and stressors of distance learning. Limit testing is normal for children and parents should respond with consistency and kindness. We may not want to bribe our children to engage them in school, but often find ourselves doing so to take make it easier on the family. I tend to focus on setting limits to their testing by focusing on consequences.
*Reminder, consequences are not the same as punishments. There are positive and negative consequences. An example of a positive consequences is that a child can play 10 more minutes of video games after they have finished their homework or put away their school supplies. An example of a negative consequence for not cleaning up school supplies may be that they have to complete the additional chore of tidying up the living room or their bedroom before they can turn the tv on. Additionally, the biggest motivator is unconditional positive respect for our children through small acts of affection such as kind words, praise, hugs and time together.
3) Sensory Needs: The new virtual learning situation is probably not easy for them or for you to adjust to. To help them focus and stay on task (and to give you some relief), try using a sensory toy that will keep their hands busy and bring them some comfort. Examples of fidget and calm down tools: Stress balls, play-dough, fidget spinners, bubbles, pipe cleaner crafts or a sketch pad. Be advised that fidget and calm down tools can be distracting to peers and their teacher, so make limits on the use of fidget tools. If your child is unable to sit in one place for a long time, try an exercise ball for a chair. You can also let your child know that it’s okay to stand while doing assignments. If the workspace seems too quiet, relaxing music can help. However, avoid turning on a television or other electronics.
4) Struggle: We often want to prevent our children from experiencing struggles or distress as they navigate distance learning. We may find ourselves rescuing them when they don’t understand the task and find it easier to give them the solution or step in and “hold their hand” through the process. However, we may be doing a disservice to our children. We learn so much from our struggles and when we finally overcome them, our wins feel so much better. I do not mean that we have to abandon our children when they are struggling, what we do is join them in their feelings and allow them to develop the skills to manage distress.
The first step is to identify our feelings, understanding the message behind the emotional response and then helping our mind and body connect by calming down our feelings. This looks like joining our child be sitting next to them, telling them “I can see how frustrated you feel right now” and staying calm. Once calm, we prompt them to step back and look at the problem from a different lens and find possible solutions.