I was encouraged to write this piece last year during the height of the pandemic and thought it would be a valuable resource in the midst of new waves and variants as caregivers are again being asked to think about the best practices and academic environments for their children.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant implications on the educational experiences of school aged children and their caregivers. Changes to the physical learning environment, methods of instruction and expectations of mastery have increased concerns, from parents and caregivers, about academic performance, attentional control and behavioral regulation. As caregivers become more involved in the learning process and experiences of their children, it is important for them to have clarity about the tools they have in their possession that they can use to support the academic success of their children. Arguably, the most important part of parenting in a virtual learning environment is that caregivers extend to themselves grace and compassion while navigating this novel experience.
Creating a sense of normalcy and structure in your child’s academic environment is key to their success. Collaborate with your child to establish a consistent daily routine, identify a dedicated work space, and implement time for self-care. Routines are helpful in providing clear and consistent expectations for daily activities. These may include specific times for classwork, meals, chores and play. Inviting your child into the decision-making process provides them with a sense of agency and empowers them to take an active role in their educational experiences. Identifying a dedicated work space helps children create and understand the need for separate spaces for work and play. Self-care is a crucial piece of this puzzle and may manifest in the form of stretch breaks, artistic expression or spending time with loved ones. It is important to be consistent with the fundamentals of self-care which include getting adequate sleep, physical exercise and meals.
Many caregivers have expressed concerns about specific behaviors and perceived academic deficits that they have observed during this period of at-home learning. Although academic and behavioral challenges can be alarming, it is best to observe patterns over a significant time (approx. 3–6 months) before seeking psychological evaluation to determine if there is an underlying issue. Mild to moderate changes to performance and behavior are to be expected in the wake of a significant transition; however, changes that increase in severity and frequency, over time, may warrant further intervention. Identifying available resources (educational, communal, psychological), establishing productive working relationships with school personnel (i.e. teachers, counselors) and staying connected to the needs of your child will help you to assess the need for further intervention.