With the New Year here (finally!) and school back underway after the holidays, the toggle between children learning in-person (full or half-day) to learning virtually from home can be stressful and confusing for families.
While we’d all like to get back to pre-COVID days, unfortunately, the virus is still hanging around. As a result, it has caused many schools to pivot back-and-forth between teaching children in the classroom and virtually at home with little notice.
With the school juggle this year still very volatile, we have some helpful tips for families to help ease your children into this new way of learning.
Talk it Out
Make sure every member of your immediate household are all on the same page when it comes to school. Keep the lines of communication open and be honest with your children. Reiterate to them that school and work may have to switch often back and forth this year from in-person to virtual. Be up front and honest about the state of the world, your own state and your county’s COVID numbers. Obviously, tailor your talk based on the ages of your children. The more knowledge they have will better help them prepare for change.
It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s school and teachers. Make sure you follow their websites, sign up for alerts and frequently check your emails for any last-minute administration changes. You can also ask your child’s teacher if they have practiced the virtual school platforms with your child in case they do need to attend school from home – due to either a closure, COVID exposure or illness.
It’s always better to over prepare than under. Assume that at some point your child will have to attend school virtually from home. Ask yourself, “What do I need to make that happen?” Check your Wi-Fi connections at home. Are they strong? Do you need to add in extenders for better connections? With many people working from home and children learning remotely to boot, it’s essential to prepare your house now for strong internet connections.
While the digital divide is real, ask your child’s school if you can borrow a school-owned Chromebook for the school year. Even if your child is in school and doesn’t need it right away, having their own computer at home on reserve will help ensure that the virtual school process goes as smoothly as possible.
Carve Out Purposeful, Personal Workspaces
It’s essential for each child and member of your household to have their own designated spots to learn virtually and work. This may mean your child is working at their own desk in their room or in another quiet room in your home. Make sure their desk or table, wherever it may be, is free of clutter and stocked with paper, notebooks for each subject, their computer or Chromebook, a charging station, calculators, pens, and pencils. Children tend to be more invested in school if they have their own spots where they feel comfortable working.
Keep Regular Hours
One of the conversations so many parents talk about as the last days of August linger is that they long to get their children back on a regular schedule. Children actually thrive off of a regular routine. This includes bedtime, wake up time and the normal hours in their school day. The same principle should stick this year, even though some children might be moving back and forth from attending school from home or in person.
If your school district goes remote, set those alarm clocks to the same wake-up time as you normally would. Also, make sure children are eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing their teeth all before logging on to their virtual platform at home. These routines will make any last-minute adjustments easier on your child and will ultimately set up their days for success.
Keep An Eye on Emotions
COVID restrictions and limitations on schools and after-school activities does not come without disappointments. These disruptions have certainly taken a high toll on children’s mental well-being – most in the 12+ age group – since the pandemic began. Parents should keep a close watch on their child’s behavior. If they have gone virtual or if they’re having a tough time with in-school COVID protocols, are they still engaged or do they seem more withdrawn? You might suggest more frequent breaks if they’re virtual or encourage fresh air or exercise. However, for some children, the emotional anxiety of being in school one day and remote the next might be overwhelming for families. To research other ways that you can help your child, see here.
While we all are adjusting to COVID restrictions every day, our children are watching. Parents can set good examples for their children by showing children how they deal with working from home and going into an office. Show your child your work-at-home station and desk. Reassure them that they’re keeping themselves and their friends safe by wearing a mask in school.
By modeling how you are successfully dealing with juggling work at home and in the office, you’re setting the stage for an easier transition for your child. While this back-and-forth era is not without its challenges, it’s best to prepare your children with the information they need to succeed amid the pandemic.