The thing about a pandemic is that it can happen in waves. While your school may be planning on opening with a hybrid model, they may need to go fully virtual in the near future again, or vice versa. Every time your child switches, it causes some disruption to their concentration and progress. So how do you establish some consistency and continuity for them regardless of what happens with the pandemic?
Offer access to a consistent mentor or resource.
“No matter what the modality is, keeping consistency with the same person, the same educator, is important,” says Dr. Jennifer Economos, Ed. “That person should be available to your student live, whether it’s in person or a virtual meeting.” If that educator is their teacher, make sure your student takes advantage of any additional time with them, like a homework club or office hours. If the consistent educator is a tutor or remote help, make sure they have access weekly. Having that go-to person will not only help your child feel more confident that they can overcome challenges, it also helps get a better picture of their progress over time.
Have a defined space at home to work.
From Snapchat, to Instagram, to TikTok, your teen has a thousand ways to be sidetracked. Take an afternoon to create a defined space, free of distractions, for your student to study. Making sure it’s a dedicated space helps them mentally focus and reinforces that this is time to work, not play.
Create a consistent schedule.
Your child will have a schedule of classes with their school, but as a parent you should also have a routine schedule at home. From consistent wake-up and sleep times to consistent mealtimes, having a portion of their lives be predictable helps children be more flexible in other areas. Encouraging your child to have consistent learning and study habits will also help to keep them focused. Creating a list of questions while in class to ask their teacher after class (if not addressed during), creating a schedule for work submission and breaks, are all great practices for your student to build.
Your children should also try to align their schedule to their peers so that they have set times to socialize together. This helps them have dedicated study periods where they are not distracted by text messages or invitations to join video games.
“Going online sometimes is like going into a black hole,” says Dr. Economos. Students need more feedback than just a grade, “they need to know that their efforts are worthwhile.” Create a rewards system where you offer something once a month for consistent, solid effort. “Building in that reward system helps ground students so they aren’t feeling like they’re lost.” It helps remind them that their work is important and valued. The reward can be anything, but they need something to strive for.
Remember to check in.
Whether it’s at the dinner table, or once a week on Sundays, check in regularly with your child to see how they’re feeling and what they need. Ask, "How are you doing?", "How is this going for you?", "Is there anything you want me to know?", "Is this still OK for you?". Online environments can be isolating, and dedicating time to check in is important. Take notes in a journal on what they tell you, so you can identify any patterns and offer more targeted encouragement based on their needs.
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