Tips to Support Your Child’s Mental Health Through Remote Learning
This post was created in consultation with CMHO child and youth mental health professionals Michelle Boulanger, of Dufferin Child & Family Services and Nicole D’Souza and David Cho of Lumenus.
With the provincial lockdown and many schools still closed, we know that many families are facing new challenges around online learning. Remote learning doesn’t work well for every child and it can be very challenging for parents and caregivers who are working with kids at home. We may be feeling that our kids are having too much screen time. We may be worried about our children’s academics.
Many families and students may not feel like they are not thriving right now.
It’s ok if you are not!
In this difficult phase of the pandemic, prioritizing the mental health of our kids and the entire family is really important. Children’s Mental Health has compiled tips from our child and youth mental health professionals to address some of the issues and concerns we are hearing from parents.
Tips to Support Your Child Through Remote Learning
- Manage expectations. Some children are really struggling with remote learning, and we may need lower our expectations. This could mean a teen who can’t get out of bed at all and is struggling with severe depression might have to drop a course this term. A child may need to opt out of their second half of online class because they need to be moving and actively engaged in a different way to learn. In the long term, children will benefit from feeling successful if academic expectations are lowered, and the courses or content they might miss in class can be retaken or retaught. It’s okay to make your child’s mental health the priority as you continue to parent through a strange and uncertain time. Read more tips on Your child’s mental wellness and remote learning.
- Ask what they need to feel better about this period of remote learning. Asking open-ended questions around your child’s learning needs will encourage them to fill in the blanks. Maybe they need extra support to adapt the virtual classroom to their learning style, more time to practise self care at home (reading together or watching a favourite movie), support connecting with friends, or building in extra family time away from the virtual classroom. If your child is feeling frustrated with online learning, check out Four tips to ease frustration in remote learning.
- Staying connected. For older kids and teens especially, it can be tough not to have access to the social connections they have at school. Encourage them to talk about how difficult it can be to be disconnected from their peers and help them brainstorm ways they might feel most comfortable connecting with their friends. Working with your kids to come up with creative and diverse ways for them to stay connected may help ease anxiety they may be feeling around missing their social connections. Read more tips on Peer Support and School Relationships.
- Encourage media breaks. For many of us, we know that our kids’ screen time has increased significantly during this period of remote learning. It can be a draining experience for some kids, and the blue light from screens can impact a child’s sleep – all of this can affect their mental health. Try carving out scheduled time within the day where the family agrees to decreased screen time, such as collectively putting phones away for a time period, or creating dedicated “phone free” zones in the house to focus on in-person connection time. Think creatively about how you can turn these screen free times into ways to connect with each other – play a board game, do a puzzle, get outside together, build on your relationship with play and fun! Parents may find that media breaks are beneficial not only to kids, but to parents as well!
- Make room for physical activity. It can be difficult to stay focused and connected for long stretches of time in a virtual learning setting at any age. In class, your children would get opportunities in the day to stretch their legs, whether it’s moving from class to class or having recess or gym time. It may help reset their focus for the day to have opportunities to stretch, go for a walk, or get in any kind of physical movement (there are lots of YouTube dance and exercise videos for children and teens to help get them moving). It can be helpful to remember that little children, especially, find it challenging to sit still for periods of time. Easing that expectation of them may help to ease some stress.
- Recognize that remote learning is not for every child. Remote learning can be really challenging, and it’s not something that works for every child’s learning style. Some kids will thrive with online learning, and some really do not – each child is unique. It is important to recognize all children have different learning styles, and it is ok if one child is not doing as well in the online learning space as another.
Looking for additional support? Our webinar series with child and youth mental health professionals, discussing back-to-school and remote learning is a helpful resource. We’ve also written two other blog posts that include some expert tips on developing healthy habits and easing frustration with remote learning.