Getting your child to stick with Zoom all day is like making sure they eat their vegetables at every meal. It can be hard work. Parents have gone from being the digital police to being the digital pusher in just a few short months. In all likelihood, this is not over yet, so let’s talk about some things you can do that will help ease the stress related to Zoom fatigue.
As a Child Development Specialist and School counselor, I have supported children and parents for over 15 years with the many issues that come with raising healthy children in the 21st century. Like all of us, I never thought that encouraging children to be online for multiple hours a day would be a concept I would be addressing. But here we are. Given the glaring premise that this is not ideal, let’s look at ways to set children up for a more successful and productive online school experience.
The very first thing I recommend you do is to validate your child’s experience. Affirming that this is hard is the first step in connecting to the emotion that your child is carrying about having to be online to learn. Give your child space to talk about their experience but don’t use this time to problem solve; only listen with empathy. Then, move on.
Every time your child is hungry or tired, they are less able to focus on school-related tasks. Keep to your routines for eating and sleeping, and this will help support your child’s stamina and grit to get through the hard stuff.
It is helpful for the child to know when to do what. Make distinctions between school, leisure, and homework times by constructing a calendar for the week. Depending on your child’s age, get them to partner with you to make a calendar that will clearly outline the expectations of each part of the day. This can be detailed or just an overview, but once it is done, have it in a place where it can be easily referenced.
The work space you create for your child can contribute to or deter their performance online. A distraction-free environment is critical. Toys and other home items that may be tempting for a child to pick up should be stowed away and out of sight. Materials that are needed during the school day need to be available and easily accessed. Flexible seating, such as a cushion on the floor, allows for different seated postures and enables a child who tires from sitting in a chair all day other options.
Allow your child to take breaks when they have reached their capacity. Breaks need to be timed with a timer, and it is important to tell your child they have a certain amount of minutes, and then they will be returning to a school activity. The break activity should not be too fun (or they won’t want to leave it) and ideally should include movement. Dance party anyone?
Praising your child for the accomplishments they have made will go a long way. Make sure to label the specific behavior that you want to see increase. “I see that you were very focused during the entire morning meeting today, and you contributed to the conversation about the read aloud.” Being specific in your praise and delivering it authentically will prime your child for the positive behavior you want to see increase.
Some children need very concrete motivators to stay on task. A behavior plan with stickers or smiley faces that show the goal achieved can be used to work toward a fun or pleasurable activity later that day or later that week. There are many templates online that can be found to make a plan. It is important to start small with achievable goals, so the child feels successful early on.
While the goal is 100% attendance, allowing your child to skip a session depends on many factors. If you choose to let your child skip part of the school day, make sure you let them know this will not be the norm. Remind them that they will be expected to attend the next session and keep to that promise.
Partnering With the Teacher
Communicating with your child’s teacher is important, especially if your child is struggling. Teachers are often able to modify assignments, prioritize what needs to get done and help you support your child. This works best if there is clear communication coming from home. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Nurture Your Relationship
Children need your attention as a parent more than ever before. Keeping a positive relationship with your child should ground your interactions. Asking yourself is what I am doing hurting or helping our relationship right now?
Remember, we are experiencing unprecedented times. Make sure to give yourself a break. Lowering your expectations is a way to practice self-care. Model that and remember to breathe.
Harriet is a longtime Fairfield County mom. Having raised her two sons in Ridgefield, she now resides in Greenwich. When her children entered the public school system, they were diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD. This turned a page in her life, and she remembers clearly the moment she decided to become an advocate for children in school. While raising her boys, she earned advanced degrees from Villanova University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. After a 15 year career as a school counselor and child development specialist in schools across three states, she now consults in schools and with parents as a coach. She loves more than anything to contribute her “pearls of wisdom” to parents. A creative soul, she also enjoys designing fabric patterns, listening to live music, and walking at Tod’s Point beach. Harriet offers a 15-minute introductory consultation to explore the parenting issues on your mind. Contact her at www.thechildgrowsconsulting.com.