Parents adjusting to their children doing school lessons at home during the coronavirus pandemic have been urged to provide a solid structure, so the young students don’t fall behind.
The advice comes from leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, who says daily schedules and allocated learning spaces free from distractions are two vital elements for keeping children on track during “remote learning”.
Dr Carr-Gregg is a child and adolescent psychologist for SchoolTV, a platform that provides expert advice to Australian parents and schools on issues ranging from cyber-safety and internet addiction to mental health, anxiety and other modern-day parenting issues.
He says a daily structure is important from a psychological point of view, no matter the age of the students.
Young people must also not be allowed to see remote learning as an “indefinite holiday”.
“The reality is that the coronavirus will turn many caregivers around the world into home schoolers and our young people will take their lead from us and we need to let them know that while we are taking coronavirus seriously, we are not panicking,” says Dr Carr-Gregg.
“While many young people have and will make a seamless transition to remote learning, some may struggle. So, acknowledging it is a stressful time for them and offering reassurance around ‘just doing their best’ is enormously helpful.”
The advice came as a SchoolTV survey of parents found that most were daunted by the prospect of their children doing remote learning at home and while the majority were confident their children would adapt to remote learning, many parents admitted they were still not fully prepared for the challenge.
While there is no denying the transition to remote lessons is “daunting and unfamiliar”, Dr Carr-Gregg says parents and carers have a key role to play in lessening the impact of the education disruption.
He urges them to set aside a learning space in the family home and provide a daily schedule that includes time for lessons, lunches and even household chores, to ease the transition to a different learning environment.
Distractions can be reduced by banning social media during lesson times and parents can watch for signs of anxiety and depression and contact their doctor or school counsellor if they see problems arising.
“Some days will be easier than others,” Dr Carr-Gregg says.“Students accustomed to the school environment won’t be as focused, but we can do things to make them feel more secure, and make parents and caregivers feel they are making the most of this incredibly challenging time.
“So, allow for the fact that students will be holding a lot of tension around all these sudden and often stressful changes to their routine and may need time to adjust.
“With many parents also working from home, it is also an opportunity to spend some quality family time together.
“We just have to try to do our best,” Dr Carr-Gregg adds. “There is no map for this journey we are on but there will be plenty of opportunity to reflect and spend quality time as a family.”
TOP TIPS FOR MAKING REMOTE LEARNING WORK
- Make a daily schedule, either using an online app or something as simple as pages in a binder. Fill in the time for lessons, leisure time and household chores.
- Set up a learning space free of interruptions, and preferably not in a bedroom, which should be reserved for sleeping. Turn off and remove distracting mobile devices while lessons are in progress.
- Encourage other interests, such as learning a musical instrument, to supplement lessons.
- Reassure your children. While many will make a seamless transition to remote learning, some may struggle. Acknowledging it is a stressful time for them and offering reassurances around just doing their best is enormously helpful.
- Prepare nutritional meals, including lunch and recess snacks, so children don’t graze all day.
- Schedule outdoor activities such as walking, running and bike riding, ensuring “social distancing” does not become confused with “social isolation”.