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Remote Learning in a Pandemic: 7 Best Tips from Pediatricians

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has been declared as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). And while countries around the world are busy understanding and limiting the virus from spreading, and headlines are all focused on those efforts, education has been overlooked. With this, effective remote learning issues arose as well. 

In fact, the pandemic has become one of the greatest threats to education and has resulted in a big educational crisis. As of March 28, 2020, the virus has affected around 1.7 billion students in 161 countries. This is close to 80% of enrolled students all over the world. 

The figure is staggering and is yet expected to increase in the coming days. And while interim online and remote learning are viable options, how will the most marginalized, poverty-stricken, and vulnerable children survive?

COVID-19 is indeed augmenting the educational problems that are already existing. Even before the spread of the coronavirus, the number of out of school children is already alarming. To be more exact, 258 million children all over the world are not studying mainly because of poverty, poor governance, or living in dangerous or far-flung areas. 

This leads to the question, how can education still continue in the midst of a global health crisis? Remote learning is the answer. But, how can remote learning be more effective? 

Here are some ways from trusted persons on how remote learning can be fun and effective:

Be Mindful of the Screen Time

Remote education. Online lessons for children. Homeschooling and distance education for kids. Child student study remotely online with video call teacher. Mom helps kids learn.
The amount of time that a child is in front of the screen should be proportional to his age.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caught parents into a double-whammy. They are forced to figure out how to work from home while ensuring that their children still get the education that they deserve. 

According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the University of Michigan and the author of “Media and Young Minds” for the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should carefully plan the screen time of their children. In as much as possible, they should only show their children good content. 

It is also their responsibility to connect and support their community through the media. According to her, parents should challenge their children to unplug themselves sometimes and exert their own tech self-control so that they’re not just gaming all day. 

Furthermore, in a statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the screentime of children should still be limited and mental health should be prioritized. This means that, as a parent, you should at least extend the screen time of your child for schoolwork or in order for him to connect with his friends. 

However, you have to make sure that your child still gets at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. AAP also recommends that children should have a lot of non-screen time. 

Before the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease, AAP recommends that children 18 months and below should not have any screen time at all. For children aged 18 to 24 months, they are allowed to have minimal screen time given that their parents are supervising. Children who are 2 to 5 years of age can have one hour per day of high-quality programs.

Meanwhile, children who are 6 years old and above have no specific screen time limit as long as it does not obstruct their sleep, and other physical activities and healthy habits. Going offline as a family is also a must. You could use that time to talk and carefully explain to them about the pandemic. 

“The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and others who work closely with children to filter information and talk about it in a way that their child can understand,” AAP suggests. “Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night… Challenge children to practice ‘tech self-control’ and turn off the TV, tablet, or video game themselves—rather than parents reminding them.”

Create Cues for a Productive Behavior

Family using digital tablet while having breakfast at home
Giving go-signals will help children be more responsible and aware of their time.

Set up a plan and a schedule that you will follow throughout the day. Children are used to following schedules. They have been following a pattern since they are going to school and recreating it at home could promote positive and productive behavior. 

According to Camille S. Johnson Ph.D., an internist who specializes in adolescent medicine and pediatrics, setting up implementation intentions helps people achieve their goals. Implementation Intentions are simply triggers or statements that push someone to move. 

For example, you can create a schedule wherein your children should be awake at a specific time and eat breakfast before 8 AM. After eating breakfast, they should already start checking their assignments for the day. This makes breakfast a cue to check on their tasks for the day. 

If you have teens at home, managing them is a little more tricky but not impossible. You can actually help your teen set up a schedule by following their typical school routine. For example, you can send them a calendar invite for a certain time as a reminder that they have to move into another project or assignment. 

You should not forget social activities when planning the schedule of your teen. In most cases, they see their friends before and in between classes, during lunch break, and before heading home. But due to remote learning, that is impossible. 

Remote learning actually requires them to focus more since they have no physical teacher that they can just ask when they do not understand a concept. The best thing to do to still nourish their social activities is to insert “passing periods” into their schedule. 

Passing periods can be a 15–20-minute break that they can spend to check their social media accounts, grab snacks, or stretch their bodies. Be strict with these passing periods or they will think that it is okay if they go beyond the set time. 

But since they are nearly young adults, imposing a schedule to them is not that easy. They may already have anxieties and you might want them to feel that they have control over the situation. People, especially teens, are more driven to achieve their goals and are more satisfied with the result when they feel that they have a voice into decisions. 

So, when making their remote learning schedule, sit down with them. Ask what they think about it and explain to them that the schedule is just temporary. Tell them that it can be altered soon once you get a good grip on how their teacher will handle the transition. 

Teenagers don’t need a scheduled waking time just like younger children do. But, you have to make sure that they get a structured sleep since they need it. Disrupted sleep has negative effects on their emotion, attention, and behavior. 

Create an environment that will make or inspire them to work. Their usual style of making assignments might not be applicable to remote learning. 

In a typical situation, assignments are given after the topic has been discussed. But with remote learning, their assignment could be the first time that they will encounter the topic. They might find it hard to do things on their own so being with them during the transition is a must. 

Also, to make the shift easier for them, create an environment that will make them feel that they are in school. Books and school supplies should be visible to their “home classroom”. Battery chargers should be readily available as well since they have to go online every now and then. The place should also be free from any distracting items.

Be Their Own Model

Mother and child, reading a book and eating fruits
Be the model of your own child in order to make learning more effective.

According to Triplett’s original social facilitation studies, people do better when they do things with others. This does not mean that they should compete against each other. Rather, they are co-acting in order to increase their productivity.

Other research shows that behavior is changed in the presence of other people. This means that during quarantine, you can set the norms for your child while facilitating their behavior when doing tasks. 

You might be aware of it, but you actually influence your child in almost all aspects. In fact, they unconsciously mimic what you do. Being an effective model to your child means following a schedule that is somewhat similar to your child. 

This means that your child eats breakfast, you do the same as well. If your child does his homework, you do your work, too. When they are not using any device, then do the same. Your child needs to see that you are doing something too. 

Doing something similar to the activity of your child will motivate them. And, the closer you are to them, the more that they will be motivated. If possible, set up their working space next to yours so that they will see you working still. 

Accept Emotions

The sudden closure of schools is a life-altering event for students. The extension of closure and the postponement of events has made teens become anxious, angry, scared, and sad. Children might not be able to process and distinguish their emotions so soon. They might get lost with it. 

Do not be hard on them. Instead, accept their emotions and be with them in everything that they are going through. But also, show them how they should properly react with strong behaviors, teach them how to control their emotions, and help them reduce the intensity of their emotions. 

Time and time again, the way you handle yourself become the basis of your children on how they will handle their emotion as well. If you show weakness to them, most likely, they will be weak and lost hope too. But if you stay on the positive side and remain strong, they will do the same as well. 

How you manage your emotions also affect how they manage theirs. If you give them a strong basis or foundation to them, then most probably, you are helping in stabilizing their emotions and behavior. 

On the other side, showing emotions is somewhat inevitable, most especially during trying times like today. It’s okay to break down, just make sure that you stand up in the end. Do not let your emotions succumb to you, which, in the end, will be your weakness. 

As a parent, being composed in front of your child will help them feel relaxed, which in return will make them more productive. They will learn more in as much as their emotional stability will become better. 

But if the situation goes around and your child is the one showing weakness, then cheer them up. Show them that they have to be strong and that they should not allow their emotions to overrule them. 

Be Patient

Family with kids in face mask in shopping mall or airport. Mother and child wear facemask during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Virus and illness protection, hand sanitizer in public crowded place.
Kids can get silly and tough, being patient with them all the time is necessary.

The sudden transition from classroom learning to remote learning is unprecedented. Teachers, curriculum designers, and administrators are all working day and night to make the transition smooth so that remote learning will be effective. 

Students are likewise busy having a grasp of how they will succeed in remote learning. Parents are also having a bad time with their own work transition. Now more than ever is the best time to be kind, compassionate, and patient to others most especially to your children. 

According to Jeff Greene, a distinguished professor in learning sciences and psychological studies at the University of North Carolina’s School of Education, being gentle and understanding to your children is the best way to cut down the stress while they are adjusting to their new learning schedule. 

Based on his statement, it’s not always going to go well. At times you’re going to get overwhelmed. At times the kids are going to need a break. But that is totally okay. As a parent, you perfectly know what is best for your children. 

Remote learning is not the easiest thing to do, especially with younger children. This can make them feel lost, which makes it necessary for you to be patient to them in as much as you can. Therefore, stretch your patience over and over when they are asking questions about what is going on around. 

In most cases, they do not really know why things changed of a sudden. Patiently explain everything to them in a very lightweight manner so that their emotional well-being won’t be so much affected. 

You should also know when your child needs help or not. Give them a sense of independence, but reassure them that you are with them most especially when things don’t go as expected. 

Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style

Whether your child is an achiever or not, it is unreasonable for you to expect so much from them with all the sudden changes. They are still in the transition phase and everything is just new to them. 

Do not set unrealistic expectations that might disappoint you in the end. Expecting is good but overdoing it isn’t. Pressuring your child to do good is not the best thing to do during this pandemic. 

The environment where the child learns is interrelated to how he learns. As a result, assess yourself as a parent. Are you giving your child a conducive place to learn? If not, then maybe, a change in an environment is needed. 

Saying no to them most of the time isn’t exactly helpful in these times. In as much as possible, give them some leeway. Be more open to them and restrict less with the things that they want to do to lessen their anxiety. 

The change from classroom learning to remote learning might require you to change or alter your parenting style as well. There is a high chance that what works for your child before will no longer be effective today. As they say, the more you stop them, the eager they will be to find things on their own. 

But the case is not always the same for teenagers. Sadly, they are more influenced by their peers and on other external forces than you are. But of course, you are a parent, and giving up is never an option. 

Always encourage them to do better in all ways. Give them the guidance that they need to do what is right academically or not. Discipline them when needed so that they won’t grow up thinking that it’s okay if they break rules or if they do not accomplish their responsibilities.

Know Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent

mom plays with her daughter near the Christmas tree home
With everything that is going on around, giving your child a leeway is needed.

Let’s face it—nobody is perfect when it comes to parenting. How other parents discipline their child might not be effective for your child. As a parent, you have your own sets of strengths and weaknesses. After all, you are still a human being but of course, do not make that as an excuse. 

Recognize the things that make you stand out and work on your weaknesses. Until then that you will become an effective teacher to your children.

It is expected that you will be the teacher of your child in some or in most cases. You will end up guiding them when needed. And in order for you to help your child, you must know first what you have and what you lack. 

Try to be realistic with yourself so that you can also be realistic to your child and to other people. Make remote learning a manageable task for you. Focus on areas that need most of your attention rather than dividing your attention to different situations. This will make you less productive. 

Remote learning may sound easy but no, it is not more so if both you and your child do not have any experience with it. Making remote learning work is a mission that you and your child should work hand in hand. So, do not take all the responsibilities. Instead, give your child the opportunity to vent out what he wants to happen. 

You do not have to perfect to be a parent. You don’t have to make everything appear flawless. Your child will expect perfection from every single time if you do so. 

Therefore, be as natural as you can be when you are teaching your child. Show him genuine love and care above all in order for him not just to learn but to develop as well. 

Conclusion

As Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development said, this is a stressful, unpredictable time for everyone, including families, parents, and children. You can help your children by providing them with a structure and routine, and being a positive force in their education.

Remote learning is not a one size fit all kind of thing. Sure, it works but it takes a lot of sweat and time to parents, teachers, and students in order to succeed. This makes understanding the key. As a parent, try to understand your children and their teachers. The same goes for students and teachers. 

Working hand in hand will set remote learning right. Above all, all children can cope up as long as you support them all along the way. 

Related Questions

How do I homeschool? Where can I find help, lesson plans, and practical ideas?

According to Denise Clark Pope of Stanford University, taking a step back and realizing that this isn’t going to be school, as usual, is the first step. You should also focus more on skills rather than on the content. 

If you are looking for online help on how you can find remote learning work for you, together with some tools and sources, you can try looking into resource directories which contain a lot of what you need. 

How can parents help with healthy trauma processing?

There is nothing wrong when admitting that today is harder than before. It is totally okay if you feel scared and lost but do not stay in that phase for a long time. Help your children overcome the situation by letting them know that they have you no matter what. 

Explain to them that schools are closed in order to keep them safe. Make them busy with being productive and enhance the skills that they have. 

Remember, times might change, seasons might pass, but how you treated your child most especially when everything is uncertain, will always be remembered.

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