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How to create distance learning family success

By Cultures Of Dignity | November 30, 2020

Distance learning

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Parent here.

How to create distance learning family success

Co-authors of this piece: Rosalind Wiseman author THE DISTANCE LEARNING PLAYBOOK FOR PARENTS with Cultures of Dignity Editorial Advisors: Jacey Fischer, Radhika Khemka, Rene Essel, and Jake Chang


With COVID 19 surging around the world, the only thing certain right about being a parent is uncertainty. Your children’s school may have started out 100% virtual, then went hybrid and now may be returning back to entirely online, or not. It’s enough to try the patience of even the most level headed parent and kids. 

No doubt what we are going through is hard but we do have some control over our reactions and the better we manage our emotions the better our children will feel as well. To help you, here are some suggestions to support your child’s learning and family’s well-being. 

Remember our emotions are real, and they can change

Emotions, like anxiety and anger, are powerful experiences. We can manage them better if we remember that how we feel doesn’t have to be permanent. Just knowing that, can reduce our anxiety.

Get specific

Instead of saying, “I’m so stressed!” get specific. Is it sorrow? Fear? Discomfort? When we expand our emotional granularity, we have more control, agency, and clarity to our experiences.  Another strategy is to be curious about how the emotion physically feels in our body and name the sensations. This helps us have more distance and control. This isn’t just for you. Your child can use the same strategy to help them in difficult moments as well; now and for the rest of their lives.  

Encourage our child’s love of learning and be proud of their accomplishments

While you want to stay away from only praising good grades, it really matters when a parent shows they are proud of their child’s hard work, creativity, and getting better at something they have struggled with in the past.

Communicate with grace

If your child is frustrated with a teacher, don’t assume the worst and remember that your child may have forgotten to tell you something. Above all, don’t send an angry email in all CAPITALS. Before you reach out,  follow the communication guidelines the teacher created. You can begin your email by stating your understanding of the teacher’s expectations, describing your child’s experience and then requesting a process where you all can work together to address the problem.  

Manage our social media

How do we do this when we are on screens all the time? Devorah Heitner advises separating tech and social media into three areas; connecting, creating, and consuming. 

  • Connecting is about maintaining important relationships like when your child FaceTimes with their grandparents or plays multiplayer video games with their friends.
  • Creating is about the amazing things kids can create using technology like TikTok dances, art, and music. 
  • Consuming is when we scroll through Instagram and Youtube and when we look up two hours have passed. 

The first two are good to do within reason–we think 90 minutes total on top of being online for school is ideal. The last one, “consuming” should be avoided as much as possible because while we’re mindlessly scrolling, we are negatively impacted; like comparing ourselves to others and being targeted by ads and “news” that increases our anxiety. 

Take eye-ball breaks

Scheduling regular tech breaks for everyone in the family helps everyone stay sane. It is also exhausting to stare at yourself all day, every day. During online classes, your child may feel self-conscious looking at themselves during their school zoom calls. Teach your child how to turn off the self-view feature so they don’t have to look at themselves during class but can still have their camera on to participate.

Create and maintain a healthy routine

Routine is what it’s all about! But what kind of routine? There are five things that make people happy; even in really tough times. A sense of purpose, a hope of success, meaningful social connection, fulfilling work, and a place to process and find peace. If you base a routine around these five concepts, a schedule will more easily fall into place. What does that look like? Every person needs a sense of purpose to drive their days. If we don’t, the days mesh together and lose their meaning. We also need a place, however small, to work; ideally, for our kids, that isn’t in their bed. And every person needs a way to begin and end the day having a place to process and find peace (so that means no screens an hour before people go to sleep is paramount! ) 

Avoid platitudes and listen.

When our children are upset and we respond with, “You’ll get through this!” “Don’t worry!” we may mean well but these responses don’t make them feel better. Instead, really listen to our kids–be prepared to be changed by what you hear–and then say something like, “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way but thank you for telling me. This is a hard time but we will get through this by doing exactly what we’re doing now. Talking to each other and supporting each other. That’s how this is going to be ok.”

Yes, these are difficult and messy times. However, getting through them with grace and trying our best to manage ourselves will strengthen our relationships with our children and give them the sense of comfort and security they need. 

The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents outlines supportive strategies for navigating virtual environments to ensure effective and impactful learning that aligns the needs and expectations of teachers, parents, and students alike.

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How to create distance learning family success