Remote Learning Tips for Parents – How To Keep Your Child Engaged and Motivated
Depending on where you live, you may be at least a month into remote learning or you may be just starting up. Either way, you’re probably feeling stressed about the whole remote learning situation. Your child may not be attentive during their lessons, they may not be finishing or even doing their work. They may be disruptive during lessons, or they may be breaking down all the time and be riddled with anxiety. All of this may be more prevalent in younger students, since it’s completely developmentally inappropriate for them to be sitting in front of a screen all day, and missing out on face-to-face interaction with their peers and their teachers.
All of this is stressful for both parents and kids. But there are steps you can take to improve your remote learning situation. And I’m here to share those steps with you.
But first, before addressing the students, let’s focus on the parents.
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Remote Learning Tips for Parents – The Parents’ Responsibility
Adjust Your Negative Attitude
You may think that you are pretty good at hiding your inner emotions and struggles but you’re not (not from your kids at least). While a stranger on the street may not pick up on your stress level, your children will. So if you’re feeling especially anxious about remote learning and what it’s doing to your children’s development, or you’re angry at the whole situation – your kids pick up all those subtle cues, and then throw them back at you with a magnitude of 10.
Have you ever noticed that during the times you’re struggling and losing it, your children misbehave the most? In my house, it happens all the time. Whenever I’m stressed or anxious, my children’s behavior spirals out of control.
So the first thing for you as a parent to do to support your child’s remote learning is to tame your anxiety and anger. Reframe the situation and change your attitude about it.
If you’re struggling because you feel that irreparable damage is being done to your child’s development – concentrate instead on the fact that this situation won’t last forever. It may be a year or 2 that this type of education will be the norm, but it won’t be forever.
Remember how much you struggled during the last couple of weeks of your pregnancy and felt like you couldn’t make it? It’s kind of the same. There is an endpoint to this, so don’t let the anxiety hide this fact from you. You made it to your child’s birth, and you will make it to the end of remote learning.
If you’re just angry at the whole situation because it makes it difficult or impossible for you to work, you need to be able to sit with your anger and then process it. Being angry is not productive and does nothing to change the situation. Do your best to reframe the situation in your mind, write down your thoughts in your journal, and then brainstorm how you can resolve this. What resources do you have on-hand to make the situation easier. They may not be perfect but they surely exist. So take advantage of them and lighten the load a bit.
Adjust Your Expectations
We all have expectations when it comes to our children’s schooling. We want them to achieve the highest grades, be the best behaved kid in class, learn all the material well, be independent in homework completion, the list goes on and on. And while, in general, it’s important to temper our expectations, it’s even more important to do so now.
Remote learning without social interaction is weird for your child. Children (as well as adults) build relationships best in person. We rely on so many non-verbal cues when we’re connecting with others that it’s hard getting that same level of information from a screen. Also being behind a screen all day is exhausting for young minds. Their brain is not geared to handle this level of stimulation.
And you need to remember all that when you’re setting expectations for your child. If your child is doing well with remote learning, then yes, set as high expectations for them as you always have (but let’s be honest, if your child is doing well, you’re not reading this article). But if your child is struggling, then you need to prioritize what expectations are the most important to you and your child. And concentrate only on those.
Sit down with your partner and make a list of non-negotiable expectations you have for your child’s school year. You may be surprised that when you put them down on paper, a lot of them will seem over the top, and you’ll cross them off your list. This process will free up your brain space and be a grounding point for the times that you may feel anger or disappointment start to form. When you refer back to what is truly important, it will be easier not to get distracted by everything else around.
Lean Into The Situation, Instead of Fighting It
This is sort of an extension of the previous 2 points. If you’re spending so much mental energy fighting the remote learning situation, hating it, swearing about it up and down, you’re not actually getting anything done. You’re frustrated with yourself, your child, their teacher, the school, the district, etc. And your child is feeding off your frustration and starts to misbehave.
So, you need to make sure to be mindful about your thoughts and actions as they pertain to remote learning. Take a deep breath when you need to re-center and remind yourself that you can do this. You can help your child and stay calm. You can help your child find what works for them, and thus improve the chances of them actually doing their work and learning. When your child sees you leaning into the situation, they are more likely to follow suit. Because the tension in the air is no longer there, and their body no longer feels like it needs to be on high alert.
Make Time and Space for Self-Care
One of the most common things I hear from parents is that they’re so exhausted and defeated by the end of their child’s remote school day, but the day isn’t even half way over by then. Or they go to bed feeling defeated and dreading having to get up in the morning. If you’re feeling this way, know that you are not alone. So many parents are struggling with remote learning, and it’s because very few of us have the tools necessary to make this successful. Like everything in parenting, we’ve just been thrown into this and told not to drown.
So, while you may not feel like you have the time, you need to incorporate self-care into the day. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated but 5 minutes to go outside to breathe fresh air, 5 minute HIIT work out (you can even do this with your child), a nice delicious cup of coffee or tea, taking daily supplements, 5 minute meditation, 5 minute craft, quick text to a friend, a cute mindless youtube video. Anything short that you can incorporate throughout the day that will help you feel less stressed and able to tackle your duties.
Make this a priority. Same goes for your child (more details on this further in the article).
Setting Your Child Up For Remote Learning Success
Creating the Right Environment To Help With Remote Learning
Now that we’ve addressed the parent part, let’s dive into what you need to do for your child to help them thrive. And the first thing you need to focus on is their environment.
No matter how much space you have in your house, you need to create a functional and distraction free space for your child to work. Your child will need a desk, a place for their computer, enough space for all the materials like books and notebooks, an organizational shelf or folder organized by subject, writing utensils, and some fidget toys or stress putty.
To the best of your ability, you should ensure that the space is quiet and there are no distractions. Which can be easier said than done given the composition of your household. (If you also have a toddler and looking for some ways to occupy them during remote learning, check out Must Have Toddler Toys for Independent Play.)
It’s important that your child’s space to work is not in the middle of a busy house. I would also make sure that TVs, game consoles, or tablets are nowhere near where your child is working. It could be too tempting to not glance and fantasize about them.
Try to make sure that the chair they’re using is comfortable. Depending on the fidgetiness of your child you may want to look into wiggle cushions or balance ball chairs.
And do your best to stay nearby, in case they need you. You shouldn’t be hovering over their shoulder all the time. But more often than not, just having an adult in the room will improve the chances that your child will stay on task.
Creating and Sticking to a Routine
I know you’ve heard this one before but make sure you have a routine in place when it comes to remote learning. Part of the reason why in person school is successful is because it’s predictable and regimented. The child knows when each period begins and ends, when lunch happens, and when they have breaks. So try to keep that going as much as possible in your house.
Some parents don’t wish to fight with their children in the morning, and so they let them attend class in their pajamas. Avoid the temptation to do that. You’re not doing anyone any favors. Those same kids are then likely to find a bean bag in their room, cuddle up in there, and fall asleep. And then you will get angry that your child did that.
Instead, make sure you are setting your child up for success. Maintain a morning routine similar to what they had while attending school in person. Get up around the same time each morning, brush teeth and hair, and dress them for the day.
Next utilize a white board or a paper schedule to keep track of their work. You can make the schedule yourself the night before, or in the morning with your child’s help. Put the schedule somewhere your child can see, so they can follow along, and tick off completed tasks.
You may want to use a timer to simulate a school bell, if you child craves that. Make sure you have times scheduled for snacks and lunch. Incorporate physical breaks with your child. You can do GoNoodle, HIIT Workout (it’s usually 5-7 minutes), game of chase, some roughhousing. Anything to get them out of their chair and get their bodies moving. Your child needs this sensory break in order to be able to go back to concentrating on the screen.
If your teacher doesn’t provide those, then talk to them and explain that at certain points you will mute and turn off the camera, so your child can incorporate their much needed sensory break.
And make sure to give your children a break without any screens after the school day has ended. Let them play outside or inside with whatever toys they want. They need the time and space to decompress. After they’ve taken a nice long break and refueled with a snack, you can go back to completing homework.
Facilitating Independent Work
One of the other big complaints I hear from parents is that their kids won’t do the work unless they’re forcing them to. Obviously, this only leads to power struggles and upset parents and children. So how do you get your kids motivated to do this work and do it independently?
First, you need to realize that if your child struggled with completing their school work before remote school started, they will continue to do so. And this goes back to expectations. Make sure your expectations are reasonable. It will be much harder for your child to be motivated to do remote work than it was doing work in school. Why? Because children work harder when there is a positive connection. And the screen doesn’t provide the same level of connection. And don’t forget the power of positive peer pressure. When your child was in a classroom, they saw their peers working, and so they did the same. That’s not really the case on zoom.
So what can you do to build this connection?
Try to ignite your child’s interest. We were all raised to believe that school was hard and boring, and the only way to get through it was by force. While that may be true to getting through school, it’s not true for learning. You can’t force learning. You can only inspire someone’s curiosity and then build on it.
So, take the time to look at the subjects that your child is struggling with. How can you help them get interested? Would making a side project or experiment help? Would reading some books or doing some research online ignite a spark? Just see what sticks.
Help them connect to the material, so they are more interested in learning. It’s not an easy battle but it will pay dividends for years to come.
Create Opportunities for Social Connection
Since I just talked about the benefits of positive peer pressure, make sure you’re helping your child connect to their classmates. You may want to set up a Zoom homework date. Or an outside homework date. You can also create a pod with a few families where you feel safe and the children can learn and do work together.
Remember that you children are missing the social connection even more that you do. And they will do better if they feel engaged and not isolated. So, find a safe way to do so.
Don’t Let Remote Learning Ruin Your Child’s Curiosity
This goes hand in hand with the idea of leaning into the situation. While remote learning may not be anyone’s first choice, the more we fight it, the worse it gets. Just as parents need to lean into the situation, they should teach the kids to do the same.
Help your child see the positives of remote learning, make something special about it (maybe Mommy or Daddy breaks are the best part of the school day), and don’t let the negatives outshine everything. Make sure you are taking the time to continue helping foster your child’s curiosity and love for learning. Continue helping them build positive habits. Help them feel ownership of their work. Celebrate their wins and allow them more autonomy over their work.
Remember that it’s about progress not perfection. Don’t make this more stressful than it needs to be.
Final Remote Learning Tip for Parents To Ensure Success
I hope this gives you some tools on making this year less stressful. Just remember, “This too shall pass”, whenever you start feeling angry or frustrated. Keep the big picture goal in mind – foster love of learning and autonomy.