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  • Autumn Quiles, LCSW

Distance Learning without Losing Your Mind

It was recently announced that we are doing this distance learning thing until the end of the school year. I think some teachers may have deluded themselves into believing that our kids might return to the classroom this year, but I think most parents are settling into a home learning routine that has required way more commitment than they have during these times.

At this point, most parents are clear about their teachers' expectations (which vary wildly in how reasonable they are). Some parents are clear about their kids' distance learning needs- if their kid needs help uploading, needs encouragement to stay on task or just needs to be alone to mow through it. However, very few parents have come to terms with their own limitations and been able to balance the teachers' expectations, their kids' distance learning needs and their own ability to meet those expectations and needs while still maintaining enough mental space to stay calm and collected.

Now that distance learning is a firm reality until the end of the school year (which is only a month of so away), if you parents have not figured out how to juggle these three components- the teachers' expectations, your kids' learning needs and your own limitations- here are a few things to consider:

  1. Teachers' expectations may be reasonable, or they may be unreasonable. You, as the parent who knows the needs of your kid and your family, makes this determination. Teachers are accustomed to teaching in a familiar environment without the stress of a global pandemic weighing on them, and their students. In this more "ideal" environment, their expectations for what your child can accomplish are usually fairly reasonable. Their ability to modify your child's instruction to accommodate her needs is greater. But, they're not teaching in a classroom. Many of them can barely put together online lessons, much less differentiate instruction. Many of them are personally affected by factors related to the pandemic. Many of your kids' are affected by factors related to the pandemic. Many of you are affected by the pandemic. Teachers, in these situations, are throwing their best (or maybe not their best, because they don't have it) into these Google classrooms. But their "best" may not work for your kid. Or you. Or your family. Not because the teacher, or you, don't want it to, but because our entire county is pioneering an all-new education system in the middle of a global crisis.

  2. Your kids may be doing their best with distance learning or they may be totally screwing off. Either choice is perfectly okay for now. The current stress of our nation and our households is affecting our kids. We parents are more testy- and some of us are outright losing our cool, regularly. The news is coronavirus-coronavirus-coronavirus all the time. Some of us have family members who have died- or are staving off death- and this hour-by-hour fear and waiting wears on our kids as much as it wears on us. If your kid is not emotionally ready to learn- if she doesn't feel emotionally safe enough to sit down and care about the civil rights movement or multiplication- that's okay for now. Kids are naturally, instinctively, curious. This is their NATURAL state. If your kid is not curious... is not moving toward learning... is not interested in distance learning... they are Not Okay right now. A parent who accepts this idea will express acceptance for Where their child is at Right Now and this acceptance will help the child move through the negative emotions that are keeping them from their natural state.

  3. You are only one person and you can only give a certain amount of yourself (your time, your energy) away to others before you must recharge. The demands on parents are outstanding right now. Many of you are still working, or if you're not working, you have extra time to worry about finances. Many of you are managing the emotional load of caring about older parents, who are at higher-risk for health problems during this time. You are doing this while simultaneously facilitating your kids' distance learning and maintaining a house with rapidly-multiplying laundry and rapidly-depleting food stores. It would be unreasonable to believe that you would be able to take any of these responsibilities off of your proverbial plate. That can't happen. Instead of unloading your plate, the answer is to add to your daily To-Do List... in fact, you should preempt your daily To-Do List with at least one act of self-care. Mindful self-care. This is what will fuel your cells to keep going- fuel your heart, fuel your body, fuel your mind. You are now like an athlete running a marathon- you must take in fuel, regularly and consistently, if you are to find your pace and be comfortable. And fuel- self-care- is much more power-packed when it is mindful. So, take a shower- and do your best to feel each stream of water on your back. Apply nice lotion to your dried out hands, and enjoy the sensation of warmth and comfort. Take time to prepare a beautiful lunch with fresh veggies- and really appreciate their color, their crispness and the feel of chewing. Nap- with or without your kids. Take walks. Listen to Sinatra. You know what works for you. The more you engage in mindful self-care, the more your power up your stamina to manage the cascade of demands.

Many parents have expressed concern that their child will be penalized for not meeting their teachers' expectations. Some teachers have made this exact threat. This fear is crippling parents' ability to find balance between the three elements. The irony is that, for parents who have found balance, they do not have this fear. I don't think it is reasonable that any child would be penalized for a less-than-stellar academic performance during this time. I further believe that the parents of any child subject to being penalized will be fully capable of having a reasonable discussion with school professionals that will eliminate the need for a penalty. I also believe that maintaining harmony in your home, during this extraordinary circumstance, is an almost priceless goal... and if it must be "paid for" by a poor grade on a report card, or additional study over the summer, or remedial classes next year, it may be worth it.

If you are a parent who is still having trouble balancing these factors and finding harmony in your home, please give me a call. I am thoroughly enjoying my new telehealth format and I have found it to be easy and extraordinarily beneficial.

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