by Allie Wagner, LPC
Manager of Community-Based Clinical Services
COVID-19 has changed and disrupted the routines of many families in our community.
Now that school is starting, most were probably hoping for some semblance of normalcy to return. But depending on what district your child attends, you will again have to readjust your daily habits to account for virtual or hybrid learning.
As a parent, it can be overwhelming at times to be accountable for so much of your child’s learning experience, and you will likely experience a range of emotions throughout this first semester trying to ensure your child has the best chance at success. Similarly, your child will be processing their emotions related to their new learning environment while also trying to manage what the change means to their social interactions or extra-curricular activities.
Supporting kids during isolation is a tricky task, especially when isolation still requires that kids function somewhat normally by attending classes virtually, or in a hybrid fashion. One of the best ways to support kids throughout this transition is to create a routine that is consistent and predictable. The routine doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, simple is best because the routine should be sustainable throughout the semester. These routines will help signal to your child’s brain the differences between “home” and “school”, even if both take place in the same location.
Maintaining routines for the areas of learning and life that you can control may make it easier to navigate the difficulties related to areas that you cannot control.
If your child is primarily learning at home, setting aside a specific part of the house for learning to take place can help your child decompress and turn their student brain “off” once their school day is over. Try and plan short but frequent breaks throughout your child’s virtual learning days and encourage them to get outside for a walk or move around the house for 10- to 15-minute increments. This can help limit “ZOOM fatigue”, which can impact your child’s mental health and information retention.
When class learning is over for each day, try and avoid putting extra tasks on your child for a set amount of time to allow them to “switch off” for a while. Encourage social interactions (with safety measures in place when appropriate) to increase their feelings of connectedness to others. At the end of the day, stick to a bedtime and wakeup routine. In addition to improved learning as a result of being well-rested, good sleep habits are vital for your child’s mental health as it decreases risk of anxiety and depression.
Both you and your child(ren) will need some time to adapt to the new learning schedule, and it’s possible that more changes could occur throughout the semester. Maintaining routines for the areas of learning and life that you can control may make it easier to navigate the difficulties related to areas that you cannot control. Remember that your child will be dealing with a loss of experiences beyond just the classroom setup. Try to give yourself and your child some grace as you work together to establish what is most helpful for you all as a family.