In an instant, schools closed their doors and moved to online learning, students stopped being able to have in-person interactions with peers and teachers — and everyone’s daily lives drastically changed. No one could have expected that we’d be in the midst of a global crisis, but here we are, and these days students, educators and parents have to navigate their new normal.
That isn’t easy for any of us, especially our kids.
“Our current reality can be scary, confusing and ambiguous; —all things that are not particularly great for a child’s emotional health,” says Joshua Rodgers, primary school counselor for kids in kindergarten through second grade with Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago.
Rodgers likens this time to moving during the school year—a sudden upheaval that can result in feeling isolated and unsure of the future, and that can cause grief.
“You have to look at this as a grieving process. All the things kids need to function successfully are being taken away — that means playing outdoors, having social interaction, learning from their peers, and following their routines. Kids are grieving,” he says. “With grief, there is no right or wrong way to travel through it.”
Now that in-person contact has ceased, Rodgers is still meeting with his young students through Google Meet. It’s something that is incredibly important to him, he says.
“I got into this field to work with kids, not just in front of my computer, so I really miss them—and thank goodness that I’ve had an opportunity to do so,” he says.
He works with parents, as well, to provide strategies they can use at home.
Here, Rodgers offers tips on how to support your children’s emotional needs as they adjust to remote learning and a new “normal.”
5 tips for parents
“Structure helps maintain normalcy, which is super important right now,” he says. “Routines and structure help reduce stress and anxiety, because it gives predictability and reduces the amount of decisions that have to be made in the moment, which can be exhausting throughout the day.”
The routine looks different for every family, and things may need to be adjusted, so he suggests families be flexible.
Check in often.
Listen to your children, validate their feelings and empathize with them. Listen to kids without finding answers to everything, Rodgers notes. When we just give answers, it can be perceived as minimizing. The more we listen and validate, the more resilience it builds.
“It’s the connection that matters most,” he says. “It’s OK to not have all the answers.”
Create a positive plan.
Ask your child, “What would help you?” Include your child’s input in solving the problem and help as she or he grapples with the answer. “We want them to come up with an answer that works for them,” he says.
Come up with a weekly goal to incentivize when it comes to their school work, and give kids the autonomy to pick what they want to work on. Start small, Rodgers says, perhaps with 20 minutes of work, followed by 20 minutes of something that’s incentivizing to them, such as building with Legos.
Give kids a purpose outside of school. Allow them to make some decisions in the way you might not normally would do and to experience that autonomy.