Strategies for Managing Remote Learning Stress & Separation Anxiety for Caregivers and Students
Licensed clinical psychologist Jenna Mendelson, PhD, shares remote-learning stress-management strategies for you and your kids this school year in this week's 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.
How can parents help their kids deal with not being able to see their teachers and friends in person while learning remotely?
“This is a challenging time for all of us, and the very first thing that I would recommend is being actively available to your children to hear when they have concerns or worries. So rather than waiting for them to come to you, actively letting them know that you're available if they're worried about something or if they need help. And then when they do come to you, really listen to what they say. Try to resist the urge to rush to reassure them. And also, if you don't know the answer to a question they ask, it's okay to say that you don't know. If your child doesn't want to talk, that's okay, too. Just give them their space, but make sure that they know that you're there for them.
“... As parents, of course, we don't want to see our children in distress, especially when it's something as big and uncontrollable as the coronavirus and schools being shut down. But actually rushing to reassure your child when they're in a state of distress can inadvertently have the effect of invalidating how they feel, or make them feel like they're not normal for feeling that way… letting them know that many people - in fact, probably most people - are fearful right now, and it would almost be strange if they weren't fearful.”
What if your child doesn’t want to learn remotely?
“During times where there's something big and uncontrollable and scary going on, something that can be really hard to cope with is the lack of control. So when your child expresses that they hate remote learning or that they want something other than what they have, that's actually a really good opportunity to help them identify what their needs are today. So I would recommend asking questions about what it is about remote learning that's not working for them, and then seeing if there are some small ways you can help them meet those needs today. Of course, you won't be able to fix the bigger issue, but you might be able to help them develop their own coping strategies in that way.”
What can we do now to stay as stress-free as possible as we face uncertainty and make changes this year?
“One thing that I think has been really challenging for many people with this transition to remote learning, remote working, remote everything, is what it does to our boundaries. Where children used to go to school and be at school and that was where they did work - adults, we went to work and then we came home to relax. But now, those boundaries are just all gone. One thing that can help reestablish those boundaries for all of us is trying to establish some sense of structure and routine. So you can do that in terms of how you structure your own and your children's day. So, you know, just having them start school at roughly the same time every day, but also having breaks and meals at roughly the same time - it doesn't have to be a strict schedule, but just a routine. Similarly, you can do that with how you lay out your house. So it can be helpful if possible to have a designated area where children work and adults work and also designated areas where you don't work or you just relax.”