Dr. Jacqueline Cahalan
Remote Learning Survival Tips!
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Virtual hugs to all of the students and families navigating remote learning this school year- both full-time or through hybrid models. Remote learning is extremely challenging because everyone is trying to do something they have never done before. While it can be near impossible to replicate the in-person classroom environment, it is also exciting that technology presents us with tools and modalities to learn and stay connected that would not have been possible even a few years ago.
Here are a few tips on how to survive:
Take a deep breath: This is new and different. And new, different things almost always present a challenge, so allow time and space to adapt to all of this change. Most educators are also doing this for the first time and are learning as they go. Know that it won’t be perfect, but lots of people are working very hard to make remote learning the best experience that it can be. Remote learning platforms and expectations will evolve as educators and families learn what works and what doesn’t. Try to maintain open communication with your teachers and schools and give feedback on what is going well and what the biggest obstacles are. This information will be very valuable as schools learn how to best support families and students.
Provide Opportunities for Mindless Movement: If your child is struggling to focus for the duration of the school day, know that this is very common. Learning through a computer for hours at a time requires a tremendous amount of sustained attention and impulse control. This is challenging even for adults and children’s brains are still developing the capacity for focus and self-control. Try out some strategies that will allow your kids to engage in mindless movement or fidgeting that doesn’t require conscious attention. Some examples are chewing gum, doodling, using a standing desk or placing the device where the kids can move around a bit, or having playdoh or strips of velcro for kids to manipulate with their fingers. The key is that these activities should be things the kids don’t need to think about and they work because they can provide opportunities to stimulate the brain, expend energy, or relieve anxiety which allows students to self-regulate so that they can focus their attention on their teacher. It may take some experimentation to figure out what works best for your child.
Create a Learning Space and Routine: Try to find a designated spot for learning that is free from distractions. Creating a routine for school days will help develop habits and reduce the mental energy needed to prepare for each day. Keeping the learning space and routine consistent will help prime your kids’ bodies and brains so they can more easily settle into the school day.
Give breaks: Do this as much as possible, and incorporate movement and other tactile stimulation- dance around to a song, go for a walk, stretch, have a snack.
Focus on emotional support and advocacy: If your child is struggling, try to connect with them emotionally. Validate what they are feeling and try to listen non-judgmentally. See if there is something specific that can be adapted or changed to offer more support. For example, if your child misses his/her friends, see if you can help find appropriate ways for them to engage, even if it can’t be in person. If your child has a history of attention or learning difficulties, remote learning is an even greater challenge and you may need to work with the teacher or other school personnel to look at how educational protocols can be adapted to meet his/her specific needs. Remember that as a parent or guardian, you have the opportunity to be both a huge advocate and emotional support. Don’t forget that facing challenges helps build tenacity and resilience. So while remote learning may be hard, there is also an opportunity here to develop a secure emotional foundation that will help them successfully navigate challenge and adversity throughout their lives.