Ministry of Education, Guyana

Eight Tips to Help Children Enjoy Hybrid or Virtual Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned so much of our daily in-person work into a more virtual environment for many families. As a business owner, pediatric psychologist, and parent coach, I currently see 100% of my clients virtually. My husband now works virtually. My two children in elementary school are doing virtual learning.

Based on the stories I hear from other parents, children, and my own family’s experience, I’ve learned a lot about this new virtual working and learning environment.

So, I’m sharing some helpful tips — from both the perspective as a parent and as a psychologist — to support you in helping your kids enjoy virtual and/or hybrid learning.

1 Listen to your child’s concerns about their new way of learning.
Ask them about their struggles, what they like, and what they dislike. Listen without trying to solve their problems, and refrain from trying to rescue them from their distress. You can say: “Online learning is different from last school year, huh? What are your thoughts about it?”

2 Notice and praise the effort.
Hybrid and virtual learning will be a struggle for many children, especially if this is a new way of learning for them. When you mix in their feelings of fear and uncertainty, their brain will have a challenging time learning. Our brain is unable to learn optimally when feeling threatened or unsafe. As their parent or caregiver, notice even small efforts toward the desired goal. It may sound like this: “I notice you logged into your Zoom session and listened to the teacher even when the other kids were interrupting her. You should be so proud of yourself.”

3 Teach problem-solving skills.
Much of the research is clear that kids who have a difficult time during times of stress and in social interactions often struggle with problem-solving skills. They see one way to solve a problem, which often involves the most impulsive decision. Instead, teach your kids how to solve their problems and guide them in a collaborative process with you. “It’s hard to focus on your work when you hear your little brother playing outside. Let’s brainstorm ways we can work as a family to help you persist until you’re done for the day?”

4 Speak to them calmly, but directly when they get off-track.
Even after all your best efforts, your child may still be unable to make positive choices. That’s okay. It is important for you to remain calm, but direct, when communicating your wishes. Let them know the expectation, find out what is getting in the way of them meeting that expectation, and determine whether the expectation is even realistic for your child.

5 Make the learning process fun.
The optimal learning environment is one where the activities and assignments are engaging, interactive, fun, and generalizable. In other words, find ways to bring the learning to their real-world experiences. Can you relate a new math lesson to an episode of Peg + Cat or Odd Squad? Can you go out into nature and apply a science concept they just learned? Applied learning that is fun and engaging truly makes a difference and motivates future learning.

6 Cherish one-on-one time daily.
We are all busy and it can be challenging to find enough time to spend with your little one. But special one-on-one time with you makes a huge impact in their world. It can help keep their attention, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in balance. Ideally, when you can offer it before they demand it, you will have more pleasant interactions. These interactions should focus on child-centered play where they choose the activity and the rules of the game. Even spending 15 minutes of uninterrupted, non-distracted time can make a tremendous difference.

7 Seek out and utilize your village.
We all need support and cannot do life alone. Neither can our children. If we want them to learn how to rely on others for that support, we must model it for them ourselves. What might that look like? Ask a high school or college tutor to help your children with certain subjects. Switch out parenting duties with other parents to help cook meals for one another. Have play dates at the local park to give one another a break. This will make online or hybrid learning more pleasant and balanced.

8 Empathize and validate their experiences.
Children want to know they are not weird or strange for saying the things they say. They want to know others are struggling too. You can do this by empathizing and sitting with them in their feelings. Add in a sprinkle of validation and they will feel understood and heard. This might sound like, “Thanks for sharing your struggles with me. That sounds like it has been tough for you. Lots of kids are feeling exactly what you’re feeling. Many grown-ups are too. I’m glad you shared that with me. We’ll get through this together.”


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