Supporting Yourself While Supporting Your Student’s Virtual Learning
August 26, 2020
As we embark on this new school year, we are all facing challenges and new experiences. Whether students attend school in-person or virtually, their entire schooling experience will be characterized by new ways of interacting and learning.
For parents/guardians, the changes are equally as profound as our role has changed and we must now provide higher levels of support to help our students succeed. For parents/guardians who are supporting virtual learning, the expectations of time and engagement have increased significantly as we also become the primary caregiver for our students. This increase in our responsibilities, coupled with no reduction in our other responsibilities (like earning money, paying bills, taking care of our home, ensuring that our families are happy and healthy, etc.) can cause a lot of stress and damage to our own mental and physical health. It is very important that the adults supporting these students at home take deliberate steps to ensure their own well-being.
- Schedule out time for yourself each day. This is not time that you spend running an errand, showering, or meeting a household need. This is time that you dedicate to yourself and spend doing something that you want to do. It can be as little as 15-20 minutes, but schedule it consistently and make sure that you take the time. If possible, try to schedule a few of these breaks for yourself each day.
- Try to fit some kind of physical exercise or stretching in each day and make it a family excursion. Go for a walk, a jog, or a bicycle ride; something that gets you and your students moving around. If it is not possible to leave the house, YouTube a yoga lesson, some stretching exercises, or even some jazzercise (yes, it still exists!) and do that together. Again, it does not need for a long period of time—even 15-20 minutes gives everyone a little brain break and gets the blood flowing.
- Communicate with your student’s teachers on a regular basis. Many teachers will be sending out information on a regular basis and that might be enough information for you. If you have questions or need some guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. Teachers recognize that this is new for everyone (including them) and they do not expect you to do this alone. They want to provide support in any way they can. Your questions are also important sources of feedback that lets teachers know what parents need and they can use that information to better plan for future assignments.
- Find the right balance of support and independence for your students. At first, younger students may need you to be close by and engaged to help them participate in their virtual lessons, while older students may be able to manage themselves more independently. Gauge what your students need and respond accordingly. After some practice, even younger students can learn to manage some of their own virtual learning and participation. It is totally within the realm of possibility for students in grades as early as kindergarten to independently spend 15-20 minutes engaged in a lesson that their teacher is teaching. While they may need help with follow up assignments, they can learn how to stay focused for the lesson. Recognize when you are not needed and use that time for your own needs.
- Create a support network of other adults and share best practices. This type of virtual learning facilitation is new to everyone and our best sources of information are each other. Create some regular way to engage with other adults: call your neighbors, make a text group, join a Facebook group—there are many ways to connect. Share your experiences and learn from what others are doing. This type of sharing gives you new ideas and reassures you that you are not alone.
- Manage your own emotions. If you find yourself getting upset or angry or frustrated, try not to take it out on your children. Know when to pull your own emergency exit valve and find a way to calm yourself. If you need a minute to breathe, use the TV or computer to babysit for a few minutes while you grab a cup of coffee and collect yourself. Do your best not to take our frustration or anger on your children—this is hard for them, too.