Are You A Parent “Losing Your Mind” Over Virtual Learning?
I went on a bit of a rant in my Kids Empowered 4 Life ADHD parent support group the other night. It’s my group, so I can do that! I now want to take a moment and sit down to write out all of the things that I talked about, and what we can do about them.
This is what my rant was about: I keep seeing posts about parents “losing their mind” over virtual learning, over their kids’ behavior, over their lack of motivation, over the excess screen time… all of the things. A great many of us are trying to work from home while helping kids of all ages navigate virtual learning. Throw in ADHD and other complicating factors, and you have a perfect recipe for going insane. I get it – it is not easy!
Luckily, I’ve got your back. I’ve been working with a life coach to learn how to manage my own mind around all the stresses that we all face. I have a family to care for, and to worry about. I have a business to nurture. I have clients and friends that I care about. The uncertainty of the pandemic strikes us all. It is easy to get caught up in the 24-hour cable news cycle or the constant chatter on Facebook and Twitter, and feel yourself losing control. To top it off, our kids are home all day and WE are supposed to be helping them! We feel pulled in a million different directions. No wonder that parents are losing their minds.
I am going to offer you tips to help you right now, so you can better understand yourself and your child, and be able to work together instead of against each other during this time.
10 Tips For How to Stay Sane During Virtual Learning
- Acknowledge the facts about virtual learning exactly as they are. This doesn’t mean accept them, but step back and just know that they are circumstances beyond your control. You can’t make things happen, you can’t control the school’s decisions, you can’t force anybody to do anything. If your district is on a virtual learning or hybrid model, that is the fact of the situation, right now. The facts that go along with this: there will be technical glitches, there will be kids who are not as engaged as they are in person, there will be an astronomical increase in screen time on a daily basis, and, if you can’t be there 100% of the time next to your kiddo (who can?), there will be struggles. Once you can logically list the facts, you are in a better mental state to make decisions around the “what to do” piece.
- Decide what you CAN control about virtual learning (then control the heck out of it). Hint: it’s not other people. You can control your organization, your preparedness, your willingness to go all in on whatever your child needs. You can control how you spend free time. You can control your reactions to situations that cause feelings of frustration
- Work on your own emotional state. We cannot help our help kids if we are spinning out of control. We must be good models to show and teach them how to handle tough times. Speak out loud during tough times. For example, if virtual learning was extended, you can say “well, that is too bad, but we will continue to do the best we can do right now”. Demonstrate how you handle your emotions in relation to any situation that arises. You do not have to be perfect, but strive to show your child that you have control over yourself.
- Shift your mindset to this: a child who is struggling with virtual learning isn’t trying to give you a hard time, he or she is having a hard time. Kids are not purposefully manipulative, spiteful, or bad. Those behaviors are demonstrative that a skill is lagging, or a need is unmet. Finding out what that is will greatly improve your ability to see your child as someone who needs help and support instead of someone who is out to make your life miserable.
- Punishing a behavior doesn’t often stop the behavior – especially if the behavior was due to the child’s lack of control. There must be an aspect of learning or problem solving that goes along with a consequence given for an undesired behavior. The skill that was lacking needs to be identified and addressed. Punishments like having to make an insincere apology or write a sentence over and over, losing electronic privileges, not being able to attend a social function will make a child feel remorse, but will not really teach them anything. The ADHD brain works in a way that often lacks impulse control. If the same situation arises, the chances of your child stopping to think and deciding “well, last time I got my phone taken away for a week, so I guess I won’t do that”, are pretty low. This way of dealing with behavior takes a lot more effort instead of knee-jerk reacting, but it’s worth it in the end. One way to do this is to make behavioral contracts that include a learning or skill building component.
- Figure out what the specific struggles with virtual learning are. Lack of focus? Impulse control? Organization? Fidgety? Not engaged? You may already know, or you can join my support group, where I have assessments that I created free in the files. These will identify specific areas within ADHD that your child is having difficulty with. Once you know, you can systematically work through each one. It is empowering to not be at the effect of the struggles and difficult behaviors, but to instead be at the helm where you can address them.
- Make a virtual learning schedule for each day. This seems like a simple tip, but utilizing a clear schedule each day goes a long way toward family peace. I have a certain way that I like to schedule time. Instead of having a loose “to-do” list or even time blocks on the calendar for classes, work, etc, I write specific tasks and what time I will do them (including an ending time!) This helps you organize the entire school or workday, and it also gives a solid ending point. If your timing is way off base, you can adjust if for the next day. This schedule should be posted for the family. Everyone in the household will know what is coming up, and there is a comforting certainty in that.
- Write down homework, due dates, and when it will be done. Similar to the above, I urge my clients to get super specific here. Most kids stop at just writing out what the homework is. You must take it a few steps further and write due date and, most important, when to do it. I also urge teens to assign an “effort factor” to assignments and studying. This step helps them figure out how long they need to complete the task, and helps prioritize when to do it. When the task is on the calendar, there is little chance of missed assignments – and parental sanity is sure to follow!
- Encourage independent problem solving but be available for help. There will be bumps in the road of virtual learning! Lead your child to answers but don’t jump in and solve them. Encourage your teen to contact teachers on his or her own, and hold back from doing it for them. Empowering kids means that they must learn to solve problems, even if they have to go through some trial and error. This is their time to do that! Adopting the attitude that your child or teen is learning to be independent will help you mentally take a step back and allow them to do it.
- Set aside time for family fun. If you want to maintain sanity, make sure that you build in time to have fun and enjoy your family. This virtual learning is a season of challenges in the big picture. Your success or failure, or that of your child, does not define anyone. Take a deep breath and decide that NOT losing your mind is more important than anything else. Then plan something fun for the family!