2021 has arrived and with it the return of lockdown learning and home-schooling. Whilst that has resulted in an enormous amount of juggling for parents (especially if you are working from home yourself) and teaching staff, it’s your teenager who’ll be feeling the effects – not seeing their friends or sharing classroom learning experiences with their peers – most keenly.
According to consultant psychologist and founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic, Dr Elena Touroni, young people have had their world turned upside-down this past year and explains that “limited social contact with peers, fears about COVID and worries around what the future holds post-pandemic could all be taking a toll on their mental wellbeing.” Not the best backdrop for learning, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So, how can you as a parent help your teenager cope in an upside-down world, especially if they are struggling or are feeling isolated or anxious? How can you make lockdown learning less stressful for all concerned?
TALK TO YOUR CHILD
This is one of the best ways to help a teenager especially when they are feeling anxious. Take time to ask them how they are feeling and really listen to their replies. Remember to be open with your child as this will help them realise their fears, anxieties and worries are nothing unusual. Do also remember not to pressurise them, they will talk if they want/need to.
If they are using their bedroom to study, try to encourage them out once and a while to engage with the rest of the family. Left alone, it’s easy for a young person to get distracted or start brooding over worries.
Encourage them to connect with friends as often as possible. Yes, it will be via a screen but it will be a lifeline for your teen at the moment. You can always monitor the amount of time they spend chatting to make sure it’s not impacting their schoolwork.
STRUCTURE THE DAY FOR LOCKDOWN LEARNING
Whether they like it or not, your teenager needs a routine and works best when expectations are clear. Now, while online learning at home can’t possibly replicate the school day, you can still put a structure in place to help them feel like they’re at school; factoring in their timetable, regular breaks and chats with friends.
Continuing pre lockdown routines like getting up at the same time, sharing breakfast before school, making a packed lunch and chatting to them about their day, is a great way to build some structure. Do ensure there are plenty of breaks for refuelling – it’s especially important for your teenager to keep hydrated. It’s also important to factor in some quiet time, time for exercise and for having fun! If you can, try to encourage a regular bedtime and for them to turn off screens an hour before going to sleep.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO LEARN
There has to be an upside to home learning so remind your teenager that as they’re not in a classroom they don’t have to sit in one place or be in one room. Give them the option to move around the house or even outside if the weather’s fine and it’s okay to do so. Find whatever works best for your child and the rest of the household (bearing in mind that some rooms in the house might be off-limits due to working from home).
The most important thing is not to beat yourself up because your child’s online learning experience doesn’t look like anyone else’s. Remember, there are no rules for how home-schooling should look. We’re all making it up as we go along and doing the best we can. All that matters is that you and your child are happy, and schoolwork is going as well as possible under the circumstances.
BREAK THE SCHOOL DAY INTO CHUNKS
One of the main drawbacks of online learning is the amount of time your teenager will spend staring at a screen. That’s why it’s important for them to take plenty of breaks during the day and, where possible, split their schoolwork into bite size chunks.
One of the advantages of online learning is that your teen won’t necessarily have to complete the work in one sitting, or in a particular order, and there is no reason why they have to stick to school hours or keep working on something that’s frustrating them. They have the luxury of working to a schedule that suits them – providing they’re attending their live lessons, meeting the deadlines for submitting work and it’s not an antisocial one for the rest of the household!
STUDYING WITH FRIENDS DURING LOCKDOWN LEARNING
If your teen likes studying with others – and it’s appropriate for them to do so – why not encourage them to set up a virtual study group with classmate friends where they can replicate a classroom feel, discuss tasks, bounce ideas around and keep each other accountable. This is good for mental health and, providing they’re not just using the time to have a good old chat, can lead to an increased understanding of the subject or task and some seriously creative problem solving.
ONE-TO-ONES WITH TEACHERS
The current situation is difficult for everyone, but if your teenager is struggling to cope with learning online you can always reach out to their school, or individual teacher(s) for some one-to-one help or advice. Teachers have your teen’s best interest at heart and will be happy to talk to you (and them) about any learning worries or stumbling blocks they may have. Once teachers are aware, arrangements can be made for additional learning support, guidance or resources to help your child. If you still felt your child needed additional support, after that, you could always look at the services of a private tutor.
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