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4 Ways to Manage Mental Health and Distance Learning with Kids
It’s officially Fall, and in 2020 that means that many parents are in the midst of navigating their children’s education remotely. Logistically and emotionally, this places new challenges on what are already incredibly full parental plates – especially for those parents facilitating virtual learning, while working, while possibly also pregnant, and/or caring for their infant or toddler. The American Psychological Association conducted a study, and 71% of parents in May 2020 reported online learning as a significant source of stress.
While every family situation differs, one thing remains the same: this is an incredibly stressful time for most, and managing our mental health has never been so important. With timelines uncertain, here are some tips to hopefully help those parents managing virtual learning on top of their daily parental and adult responsibilities.
- Communicate clearly with teachers. Remember that you and your children’s teachers are on the same team – the goal being the success and happiness of the kids. If there is something in particular that is challenging for your child, not conducive to your setup at home or the online learning schedule, letting the teacher know provides a way for you to collaborative. Given that in most cases, teachers have never met current students in person (and therefore don’t know their personalities and inclinations), it may be hard for them to know what’s going behind the scenes, so your keeping them informed helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. (Also, please keep in mind that just like parents are new to this, so too are teachers. They deserve all our patience and gratitude!)
- Focus on your children’s overall wellbeing. Academic education is only one part of a child’s development. Remind yourself and your student that remote learning will look very different than in-person learning. Thinking about what opportunities might uniquely be available to your child during this unconventional time might allow them to explore interests and skills they wouldn’t otherwise. If the stress levels feel too high, don’t be afraid to encourage your student to take a break and try to assess how to improve the situation for them.
- Lean on virtual school communities. Online parent groups – be them specific to your classroom and/or school or be them more broadly focused – are popping up everywhere to provide parents a place to share ideas, frustrations, challenges, and successes. Facebook is obviously one platform for this, but also consider school discussion boards and virtual parent zoom meetings. Postpartum Support International – the world’s leading organization in providing support to maternal mental health issues – quadrupled the number of online support groups from February to April to accommodate the increased need for services for parents (mhanational.org). If you can’t find one that fits your specific needs, consider starting such a group. It’s almost certainly the case that the specific struggles or questions you’re facing are relevant to other parents and families in your network.
- Give yourself a break. As much as possible, try to lower the stakes of all of this. While the timeline ahead is in flux, remind yourself that parents all over the world are in the same situation – and so too are the kids. This moment will not define your children’s educational career, and your having perspective about that can help them feel less stressed. Also – if possible – give yourself an actual break. Finding time for yourself in the midst of all this is more important than ever. Take a walk. Do a 5-minute midday meditation when things feel insurmountable. Ask for help when you need it. Most importantly give yourself and your children grace in this unprecedented time.